David Bentley has become the latest person to question the relevance of international friendlies at this stage of the season, revealing that last week's contest between England and France in Paris was "half-hearted". The 23-year-old midfielder has also hinted that he may look to leave Blackburn Rovers this summer with Liverpool among the clubs said to be interested in the player.
Bentley replaced David Beckham after 63 minutes last Wednesday in Paris to win his third cap for England, and while several managers have spoken out criticising the timing of international friendlies, those playing in them have tended to keep their counsel, particularly with a new manager to impress. Bentley, however, sees it differently and described the encounter at the Stade de France as "a strange game".
"It wasn't very enjoyable," he said. "It's the stage of the season we're at. I don't think there should be a game like that anyway. A lot of the lads are preparing themselves for the Premier League and the Champions League so it can be difficult to play a game like that for both sides. It was a half-hearted; 50 per cent effort. Everyone wants to play well for England but sometimes it just happens like that. It wasn't enjoyable for me but you try to have an effect on the game, but it's difficult to get into a game like that."
Bentley appears to be in a battle with Beckham for a position in Fabio Capello's starting line-up. With typical confidence he believes he can emerge victorious by the time England begin their World Cup qualifying campaign in Andorra in September. "It's up to me to take the position," he said. "If I perform then I believe I can take it."
Last week's friendly was supposed to be an opportunity for Bentley – who played the full 90 minutes in Capello's first game in charge – to give his new manager further evidence of his abilities. "I just try to make an impact," he said. "I wanted to, but sometimes you're limited because it's a team game and sometimes it doesn't work out."
Bentley's form for Blackburn this season has seen him not only play his way into the England fold, but has caused his name to appear on the summer shopping lists of several clubs. Liverpool, Tottenham and Valencia have been the three most strongly linked with the former Arsenal player, but despite having three years of his current contract remaining, Blackburn hope to tie him down to a new improved deal, something that Bentley has yet to decide upon.
"It's a big decision in my life at the minute," he said. "I want to play European football; I want to play at the top of my game. I want to go to the World Cup in two years time and I want to be starting – so sometimes you have to make strong decisions. We'll have to see what happens."
His manager, Mark Hughes, is keen to fend off interest from other clubs by persuading Bentley to extend his stay at Ewood Park. "We're just trying to give him more money," Hughes said. "He's got three years left on his contract and we're trying to acknowledge that he's had an exceptional season and reward him because of that."
Blackburn are seventh in the Premier League with seven points separating them from Everton in the Uefa Cup position. If European football is to be a deciding factor in Bentley's future, then Uefa Cup qualification via the Intertoto Cup looks like being their best bet of retaining his services.Reuse content