LONDON — Fabio Capello's decision to quit as England coach might just be another example of the pragmatism that has defined his managerial career.
Publicly dismayed by the Football Association's decision to fire John Terry as captain without his agreement, Capello was facing the possibility of taking an unhappy and unsettled squad to this year's European Championship.
He had already suffered widespread public criticism following the 2010 World Cup, when his inflexible tactics and the England players' inability or unwillingness to implement them fully contributed toward an embarrassing early exit.
Capello's resignation now means there's no chance of another stain upon what was an almost flawless coaching record before he took the England job in 2007.
On the assumption that one is innocent until proven otherwise, Capello said Terry should have been allowed to lead the side until the result of his criminal trial for racially abusing an opponent was known. The FA decided on a more cautious approach, leaving Terry available for selection but removing him as the team's figurehead.
Having expressed his unease at the FA's decision and riled his employer by doing so, Capello was left with the tricky task of uniting a squad of various club backgrounds and ethnicities under a new captain in time for the June 8-July 1 European Championship.
There is no obvious candidate for the job and the question of how to deal with Terry's selection, or non-selection, remains.
It's little wonder Capello felt compelled to stand down.
The veteran Italian coach won a domestic league title with every club he has led, a roll of honor that includes the Spanish league in each of his two single-season stints with Real Madrid.
He also turned the England squad that failed to reach the 2008 European Championship into impressive qualifiers for the subsequent World Cup.
But his failure — arguably the first time that word had been prominently attached to his name — at the tournament itself prompted many commentators to suggest that his approach was alien to English players or that it was simply better suited to the daily work of club management.
Capello's approach to football has long been described as conservative but might more accurately be called pragmatic, adapting his tactics to the means and players at his disposal.
A disciplinarian off the field — as evidenced by his ostracizing of David Beckham at Madrid and treatment of the players at the World Cup in South Africa — Capello has also drawn great beauty from his teams at times.
Promoted from within the club to replace Arrigo Sacchi at AC Milan in 1991, Capello followed his predecessor's lead in spurning the defensive football that defined Italian football — the so-called "Catenaccio" — and embraced an expansive approach more reminiscent of the great Dutch sides,
Anchored by a defense featuring Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi but boasting attacking flair such as Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, Capello's Milan won four Serie A titles in five years. That run included an unprecedented 58-game unbeaten streak that spanned the whole of the 1991-92 season.
His tenure also produced arguably the greatest ever performance in a European Cup final, when his injury-hit Milan side demolished Johan Cruyff's heavily favored Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 Champions League.
He won the 1997 Spanish league with Madrid and, after a brief second stint with Milan, moved to AS Roma and won Italy's Serie A title again in 2001.
Capello led Juventus to the 2005 and '06 Serie A titles, which were later stripped from the club over a fixing scandal. Capello was not implicated.
He returned to Madrid, which was where his reputation as a dour coach was cemented by the howls of protest from fanatical fans demanding constant entertainment as well as success.
Capello broke Barcelona's domination to win Madrid's first title in four years, but was fired at the end of a season during which he exiled Beckham from the squad for announcing his agreement to join the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Typically, however, Capello's reason triumphed over his anger and he recalled Beckham after seeing the former England captain's continued dedication in training.
His pragmatism, his track record and his proven ability to inherit a squad and turn it around with only minor personnel changes all appealed when the FA was searching for a successor to Steve McClaren as England coach.
Most likely they will appeal to someone else before too long, probably at a major club seeking an instant return to glory.