At 30 Gascoigne could be on the cusp of the greatest six weeks of his career; his national coach, Glenn Hoddle, has told him he could go on for another five years; yet he is talking of retiring from the international stage within seven months.
Speaking during a break from preparations for tomorrow's Wembley international against Cameroon he said: "I'll see after the World Cup and if I feel I've had enough and that I want to enjoy myself and relax it could be the US. I like the States. It's a great place."
Between jokes a relaxed Gascoigne added: "I will still have two years on my contract but if I did decide I wanted to move to America or Japan then I don't think the chairman would stand in my way.
"Whatever happens Rangers will be my last club in Britain. I can't see myself playing in the Premiership and if I leave it will be for abroad. I'll give everything for Rangers this season and if I feel I can do a job for them and Glenn Hoddle I'll stay. If I don't I'll talk to Walter [Smith, the retiring Rangers manager], Glenn and Terry [Venables] but if I felt I wanted to enjoy the last couple of years of my career abroad I'd do that."
There is logic in this. Gascoigne has lived a goldfish bowl life for seven years now, ever since he captured the national imagination in Italia 90. He said he is still followed wherever he goes and that would still be the case anywhere else in Europe or in Japan.
In America, where, as Ken Jones wrote in these pages yesterday, the game is a recreation not an entertainment, he would be effectively anonymous. Such is the concentration on the stars of gridiron, baseball and basketball even Carl Lewis can walk down an American street without being noticed - so Gascoigne should have no problems. In matches he would be able to dribble past players at will and play to the crowds in a moderate league of little intensity.
But would Gascoigne really like being anonymous? So many of his antics are attention-seeking it is hard to believe even the new mature version would like to be truly ignored. And would his enduring competitiveness be fulfilled? Rangers may be a cut above most their opposition but the Scottish game makes up in passion what it lacks in depth.
His high personal playing standards were evident when he was asked what he recalled about his match against Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup. Instead of mentioning the two passes he played to Gary Lineker from which Lineker won the penalties which earned England victory he replied, "giving away the penalty".
Hoddle was certainly keen to forestall talk of a Yankee Doodle Gazza. "It would be foolish to make a decision like that now," he said. "If a player looks after himself nowadays he can continue his career further than ever. As it stands Paul is a cast-iron certainty for France. In his current form there is no better midfielder in the country. I am very pleased with him on and off the field."
Gascoigne admitted that the transfer speculation around him earlier this season had "unbalanced" him and that he had deserved to be briefly dropped at Rangers. He saw Smith and was told the manager wanted him to run at people more and involve himself in the game. That he is now doing, though Hoddle stressed that taking on players in a domestic league was a different matter to doing it at international level.
Hoddle's preparations for Saturday remain complicated by injury and illness with Paul Scholes only partially training yesterday as he is still troubled by a heavy cold. The other England concerns, Ian Wright and Nicky Butt, trained throughout. In a possible indication of Saturday's team Jamie Redknapp played sweeper during the end of session practice match.
l Tickets for the England-Cameroon match, which kicks off at 6pm, will be available at Wembley on the day. A crowd of up to 50,000 is expected.Reuse content