England footballers such as Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole are hardly noted for their appreciation of high culture – but their manager, Fabio Capello, has revealed an erudite taste in modern art.
Asked in an interview what he wanted for Christmas, the 62-year-old Italian said: ‘A painting, like always. In the letter I write to Santa Claus I put down three contemporary artists: Cy Twombly, an American, Georg Baselitz, a German, and the Englishman Peter Doig.’
Despite his £5million-a-year salary, even Capello would have trouble buying one of their most famous works.
Doig, who is actually Scottish and specialises in abstract landscapes, set a European record for a living artist when his 1990 painting White Canoe sold at Sotheby’s for £5.7million last year, while American abstract expressionist Twombly, known for his large, graffiti-style paintings, sold his definitive work, Three Studies From The Temeraire, for £2million in 2004.
The work of Baselitz, however, is not for the faint-hearted. He burst on to the art scene in 1963 with a sexually explicit picture that could be interpreted as a child. It was later seized by public prosecutors in Germany.
Capello, who has taken the England team to within striking distance of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, also revealed his favourite book is Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski, dubbed Poland’s ‘Journalist of the Century’. The much-revered writer – whose book The Soccer War covered a five-day conflict between Honduras and El Salvador, which was sparked by football games in 1969 – was last year revealed to have once worked for Poland’s Communist secret police
Capello, who has homes in Milan, Madrid, Lugano in Switzerland and London, also lists his favourite play as the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty and his preferred concert as any directed by ‘my friend, Valery Gergiev,’ the Russian conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Whatever fans think of Capello’s coaching, his artistic tastes set him apart from the typical football boss. He certainly operates in a different universe from his illustrious predecessor, Sir Alf Ramsey, who lived in a semi-detached house in Ipswich and whose passion was gardening. Ramsey earned a bonus of just £6,000 after winning the 1966 World Cup.
Curiously, for a man who has worked for and supported Right-wing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Capello revealed his support for Barack Obama in the new interview.
He said: ‘I’m happy with his election. He’s young and change is needed. I hope he will make the right decisions.’
In contrast to Capello’s love of high art, Wayne Rooney has suffered jibes after striking a £5million deal to ‘write’ two books – which team-mates joke is more than he has read.