Monday, February 27, 2012

What has happened to Joan Capdevila? From World Cup winner with Spain to bench-warmer at Benfica

It was the best of times, then, all of a sudden, it was the worst of times. For Joan Capdevila, life took a 180-degree turn in the space of a year. In 12 months, he went from starting for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands to finding himself on the fringes at Benfica after a free transfer from Villarreal.

But Capdevila's Greek tragedy began during the 2010-11 term, as the 33-year-old fell behind Jose Catala in then-Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido's estimations towards the latter stages of the season. As a result, he also lost his place in the Spain set-up and was forced to consider his options as the campaign came to an end.

For Capdevila, Benfica looked to be the way out of his disappointing situation: the Portuguese club were looking for a new left-back following the €30 million sale of Fabio Coentrao to Real Madrid, and the other player who arrived for the left side of the defence, Lille's Emerson, did not boast nearly as much experience as the Spaniard.

However, things quickly went sour for Capdevila, who was left out of Benfica's 27-man squad for the Champions League qualifiers against Trabzonspor. Back then, the former Villarreal defender played down that situation, and it was suggested that he merely lacked competitive rhythm. 

But the final straw came when he did not make Benfica's final list for the showpiece tournament as Uefa regulations state that a club cannot register more than 17 non-homegrown players. In his place, the Estadio da Luz outfit chose Cesar Peixoto, who was not even training with the first-team squad and ended up being released in January. 

Just 24 hours after the list for the Uefa competition went public, so did Capdevila's agent, who spoke of his client's frustration at his situation and admitted that the player would have left Benfica before the end of the summer transfer window if he knew he would not be under consideration by coach Jorge Jesus. Later in September, the agent confirmed that Serie A duo Napoli and Juventus were targetting a move for the 33-year-old, but neither club have so far made an offer for the player.

The fact is that every time Capdevila has been called to action, he has appeared to be off the pace. Speculation has surfaced that the Spaniard has not been putting enough effort into training as he was convinced that he would be an automatic starter, but this matter has become taboo at the Estadio da Luz.

In early October, a report in the Portuguese press helped to understand why Capdevila may be on the periphery at Benfica. During the summer transfer window, Jesus had set his sights on Malaga winger Eliseu, who can also play at left-back, much like Coentrao. However, given the Portugal international's hefty price-tag, Jesus had to settle for the Spaniard, a player he never wanted in the first place.

With little over two weeks left in the January transfer window, all doors seem to be closed for Capdevila. A transfer to Juventus appears to be out of the equation as the Bianconeri are plotting a move for Sevilla's Martin Caceres. At the age of 33, a return to the Spain national team, for whom he has not featured since March 2011, is also highly unlikely, as Valencia's Jordi Alba has been the undisputed first choice for coach Vicente del Bosque of late. Deportivo La Coruna, where Capdevila played between 2000 and 2007, have been mooted as a solution, but the Spanish defender may have to drastically lower his wage demands to be able to join the Segunda Division side.

From hero to zero, Capdevila has watched his career nosedive spectacularly in little over a year. His future seems to be up in the air, but one thing is certain: his example shows how quickly a player's career can change if a wrong turn is taken.

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