David Beckham's international career hangs in the balance once again but the man himself said yesterday that the "anxiety" around who is in and who is out Fabio Capello's first England squad was for the greater good. As the former England captain waits to learn his fate, possibly today, he said that he would respect Capello's decision whatever way it went.
It could be as early as today that Capello names a provisional squad of 30 players, with a view to whittling it down to 23 on Saturday night, and English football finds out for the first time what the Italian thinks of the talent in his adopted country. The friendly against Switzerland on 6 February could yet mark Beckham gaining his 100th cap but Capello is keeping his thoughts so secret that not even Football Association officials know whether to feature Beckham's 100 caps in the match programme.
Almost a year since he was banished to the reserves by Capello at Real Madrid, Beckham said yesterday that he desperately wanted to play for the Italian once again and gave an insight into the workings of the new man in charge of England. As for the intrigue that surrounds the next few days, Beckham was philosophical. "In the past everyone has known the squad and everyone has been very relaxed about it," he said. "It is good to now have that anxiety – wanting to know whether you are in the squad."
In north-east Brazil yesterday, anxiety was certainly looking very far from Beckham's mind as he inspected the beach-front site that will be home to the "David Beckham World of Sport" by the end of 2009, encompassing an academy like those he has already opened in London and Los Angeles. While most of his potential England colleagues shivered on the training pitch yesterday, Beckham was in the city of Natal for the latest leg in the development of the Beckham brand.
Come Monday he hopes to be back in Hertfordshire joining up with Capello's first England squad after three weeks that he calls "my own mini pre-season". That has been his boot-camp at the Arsenal training ground where he has trained with the squad and on an individual basis with the club's fitness coach, Tony Colbert, in the absence of any competitive football with Los Angeles Galaxy. Beckham said that he is fit to play for England.
"I would like to experience playing under Fabio Capello again – he's a great manager, he knows what he wants and how to get it," Beckham said. "I have seen that at Real Madrid, we were a long way behind Barcelona and we ended up winning the league. He knows how to win. He is a strong manager and a strong character and that is what we need. His approach to football is 'It's my way' – and that's the way it has got to be."
A title-winning season together at Real Madrid has not, Beckham said, left him in any doubt of Capello's modus operandi. "He doesn't treat any player in the team or in the squad any differently," Beckham said. "He only makes decisions on football, he doesn't care about anything else. If he doesn't think you're fit, he won't play you; if he doesn't think you are good enough, he won't pick you.
"The England players are going to enjoy it immensely but it is going to be tough because he [Capello] works you hard. He won't take any playing around or messing around. When you are training you are training."
After two weeks in which he has visited Sierra Leone at the behest of Unicef and then 24 hours in Brazil, is Beckham fit enough to play for England? "I feel great. Arsène Wenger came up to me and said 'Fitness-wise you are looking good and looking sharp'. Arsenal are one of the fittest teams in the Premiership. I have been lucky that the manager has let me go there and keep fit. The England manager has been kept in the loop of what I have been doing. I am ready."
And what of the relationship between Beckham and Capello over the former's exile – and subsequent reinstatement – to the Real Madrid side last season? "I said at the time there was a lot going on behind the scenes," Beckham said. "The manager said that at the end of the season. It's unfair that he had to leave Real Madrid after winning a La Liga title. Being told he had to leave was tough but he is a great manager."Reuse content