Fabio Capello tells UEFA.com how the UEFA Youth League helps player development and what those learning their trade must do to stand a chance of reaching the elite level.
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A winner of seven league titles as a coach in Italy and Spain, as well as the 1994 UEFA Champions League with AC Milan, Fabio Capello knows what it takes to be successful.
UEFA.com caught up with the 70-year-old after he spoke at a UEFA Youth League coaching forum to discover his views on the competition, which reaches its climax in Nyon between 21 and 24 April.
On the UEFA Youth League ...
"Travelling around Europe, you improve your knowledge and face different kinds of sides; a different pace, a different style of football, a different mindset. These are very important moments to improve as a player. I would have liked the UEFA Youth League a lot [when I was coaching]. I played in international youth tournaments, but this is different because it is the best club academies."
On the value of youth academies ...
"Academies are very important to a coach. The mighty FC Barcelona, apart from Lionel Messi, have plenty of players who came from the youth set-up; going back further, the great AC Milan sides of the 1990s had guys who came through the system. These are the players who pass on the baton, pass on the mindset, pass on the identity of a team to the younger ones."
On the semi-finalists ...
"Salzburg might look out of place alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona and Benfica at the finals, but their opponents cannot afford to underestimate them; it's one of a coach's main duties to prevent that.
"When you're playing against a less-celebrated team, you can be careless. Minutes go by and you start to get into trouble and by the time you realise you should have started with the right approach, it's too late.
"Things like that happen, even if you warn your players beforehand. I've always watched my teams' warm-ups and the opposition too, and I learn a lot from them – how they exercised, if they were focused. When I've seen my teams being lazy, I've always told them that if they play the same way as they warmed up, we've got no chance. It's important to take care of those little details."
On how young players can make it to the top ...
"If you think you can progress without making sacrifices, you'll lose your way, even if you're very talented. No pain, no gain! There's always room for improvement, and fitness is very important, so you need to train well. More importantly, you have to give your all because this is your job. I'm not saying you have to live like a monk, but if you train, you improve; if you live a healthy life, you improve."