Capello: Wilshere will one day lead England
Fabio Capello has nominated Jack Wilshere as a future England captain after claiming the 19-year-old is the most exciting young midfield talent he has ever seen.
When England last convened for a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against Montenegro in October, Wilshere was not involved having failed to answer doubts about his ability to adapt to such a high level in a seven-minute debut against Hungary. But Capello has been watching carefully. He handed Wilshere his first international start against Denmark in Copenhagen last month, when he was distinctly impressed by the teenager's maturity in a holding role he was not entirely comfortable with.
But it was the responsibility and attitude he displayed in two UEFA Champions League meetings with Barcelona recently that convinced Capello that Wilshere is the real deal. "It is incredible," Capello admitted. "In this last seven months, he improved a lot. After that very first game I was not sure because he didn't play with a lot of confidence and following the Denmark game, some people were surprised when I said I was really happy with his performance.
"But he played with confidence and without fear. He tried to do the same things he usually does when he plays for Arsenal and everyone can understand his value after the games against Barcelona. I followed him. I monitored him during the game in Barcelona. Against the most difficult team, one of the best teams of all, he played the same game, with the same confidence that he did in the first leg in London. Then Arsenal won. The second time it was more difficult."
Capello was awe-struck at the manner in which Wilshere refused to be intimidated by his surroundings, his illustrious opponents, his team-mates or even the referee. "He will be England captain one day," Capello added. "Jack Wilshere needs more caps but he is a real leader.
"I saw how he spoke with the referee and how he spoke to the other players. It is difficult to find someone so young with such a big personality. I remember two defenders, Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi, and one attacker, Raul, who was 19 at Real Madrid, but for personality and confidence on the pitch, he is the best young midfielder I have seen for his age."
Capello now concedes Wilshere is no Claude Makelele, as he tried to make out immediately before the Denmark encounter. What the Arsenal star clearly has is the ability to find space, either for himself or others, and move the ball quickly, something Capello feels is essential for any modern-day midfielder. "He prefers to be an attacking midfielder but he did that for Arsenal against Birmingham in the League Cup final," said Capello.
"I felt he was better in the second half when he played in his normal position. He is an important player. You want them to touch the ball more often. I feel he needs to be involved as one of the two midfielders in front of the back four. We have to find another one."
Capello has someone in mind but will not reveal his name, mainly because the Italian views the player concerned as someone his successor - Harry Redknapp being the overwhelming favourite at present - will be able to use rather than him. Wilshere is a man for now and the future and his omission from the Under-21 squad Stuart Pearce announced for matches against Denmark and Iceland later this month merely confirms where the youngster's future lies.