Capello must move fast to cap German-born wunderkind

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The Independent Online

Fabio Capello has the opportunity to claim the Germany under-21 captain Lewis Holtby as a senior England international if he caps him before the German-born midfielder, who has an English father, plays for Germany's senior team.

Born in Erkelenz in western Germany, Holtby, 20, currently on loan at Mainz, has not discounted the possibility of playing for England. He has played at under-18, under-19, under-20 and now under-21 level for the country of his birth but under Fifa rules would still be eligible to play for Capello's senior team providing he does not play for Germany first.

Holtby, who is signed to Schalke, has come to prominence this season with Mainz's unexpected rise to the top of the Bundesliga. He has a German mother but his father Chris, a Falklands War veteran, is English and has spent most of his military career stationed in Munich.

The Football Association is understood to be aware of Holtby but it is not clear whether Capello himself knows of the player. While he might not yet be a contender for a place in the England squad they will lose him if he plays for Germany first. It is a situation that is unprecedented in recent history. In the case of Owen Hargreaves, who was born in Canada to English parents and was eligible to play for Germany through residency during his years with Bayern Munich, it was always the intention of the player to represent England.

In an interview yesterday, Holtby indicated that his loyalty was to Germany. He said: "I supported England as a child but I'm not a traitor. I must have honour and respect for Germany. I love the country of England, but Germany have given me the honour of the captaincy at under-21 level and I have to give them back that respect."

There is an opportunity for Capello to test Holtby's loyalty to Germany next month when he picks his squad to play Montenegro. An Everton fan because of his father's support of the club he admitted that as a child he cheered for England when they beat Germany 5-1 in Munich in 2001.

Capello will give his players a long rest in the build-up to the Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on 12 October. There is no game scheduled for the preceding Friday so Capello will not name his squad until 4 October and the squad will not meet up for a further three days.

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