Fabio Capello insists England’s World Cup preparations would not be disrupted if Wayne Bridge changed his mind about his self-imposed international exile.
Capello’s meticulous plans for the finals in South Africa have been thrown into disarray by John Terry’s alleged affair with Bridge’s former partner Vanessa Perrocel.
The Italian stripped Terry of the England captaincy because he felt his behaviour wasn’t suitable, but that wasn’t enough to appease Bridge, who announced this week that he no longer wanted to be considered for England duty because of his former friend’s presence in the squad.
That left Capello with a major headache as first-choice left-back Ashley Cole is out for three months with an ankle injury and faces a race against time to be fit in time for the World Cup.
Bridge showed his feelings for Terry on Saturday when he refused to shake his rival’s hand before Manchester City’s 4-2 win at Chelsea.
Yet Capello still hopes he can persuade Bridge to change his mind before naming his squad for the finals and he is adamant the squad would not be torn apart by the warring pair.
“I respect Wayne Bridge’s decision, but we have three months to change his decision. I open the door to all the players and now the door is open for the future of Wayne Bridge,” Capello said.
“Bridge has a different vision of life that he thinks it’s better for him to stay out of the team.
“This is the opinion of the player, I think in the squad he can stay without problems for me. He knows if he changes his mind the door is still open.
“In my life I played one World Cup. It’s not easy to play the World Cup. There’s not many chances, but he has decided not to.”
Although Terry is believed to have harboured faint hopes of regaining the captaincy in the future, Capello has crushed that dream by revealing the 29-year-old would never wear the armband again during his reign.
“For me, up until the World Cup Terry will not be the captain. If I will be the England manager I don’t think he will be ever again,” Capello said.
“It was not good because I always ask the captain to be a role model for the children and the fans. It wasn’t good. I told him this.”
Capello also dismissed suggestions that Terry could prove a divisive presence in the dressing room if the other England players are unhappy that his actions have caused such chaos.
“I understand Wayne Bridge is innocent, but I never thought about taking John Terry out of the squad,” Capello said.
“When I spoke with John Terry I was happy because he understood everything, I understood what really happened. I’m not concerned about it.
“I asked Terry to be the same. John Terry is a leader and also will be a leader without the armband. I don’t think the team has lost respect for him.”
With so much damage already done to his plans by his players’ liaisons, the last thing Capello would have wanted to read this week was reports that the wives and girlfriends are planning to base themselves near England’s Rustenburg camp.
England’s 2006 World Cup campaign in Germany was disrupted by the spectacle of the so-called WAGS running riot in Baden-Baden, a situation Rio Ferdinand described as a “circus”, and Capello jokingly said he hopes a virus keeps them far away from the players.
“I don’t know where they will stay. It is far enough when they are out of the training ground,” Capello said.
“For me it is not important what will happen outside the training ground. There will be a virus, no? I think so, I hope so. It was the virus of the last World Cup.”
The former AC Milan and Real Madrid boss knows it is the form of Wayne Rooney that could determine England’s fate in South Africa and he believes the Manchester United striker is now a more complete player than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.
“Rooney is really the centre forward. He defends very well, he can dribble, shoot from long distance and score goals with his head,” Capello said.
“Also the difference between these players is Rooney presses a lot. He runs a lot, the others less that way. It is a big difference.”