England boss Fabio Capello insists there is still time for Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves to earn a place in the World Cup squad heading to South Africa next year.
Hargreaves, 28, has been out of action for almost 15 months after major surgery on both knees to cure a tendinitis problem - but he is almost ready to return to full training.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson recently revealed his 2007 signing from Bayern Munich is working well with physios and needs to regain the confidence needed before being ready for competitive football.
Capello, who is refusing to rule Hargreaves out of his plans, said: "Why not? He can because he has time to recover everything. He has to play. Players who do not play will not be with me."
The Italian added: "I spoke to him two months ago, I met him in Manchester and he was just ready to start training. But now he is not fit.
"He has six months to recover his good form but he needs to play. I will choose players that will be fit in May, the players that play all the games."
Hargreaves was England's player of the tournament for the 2006 World Cup in Germany but has had serious injury problems since - his last game for his country was against America in the season before last.
Since then Gareth Barry has established himself as Capello's first-choice defensive midfielder, although Capello likes players such as Hargreaves who can play in more than one position.
The England boss is "more or less" settled on his squad for South Africa and is hoping for a clean bill of health come the end of the season.
He said: "More or less, I know all the players. I follow the players and check on them but we have to wait.
"When I decide the 23 players that will stay with me, I hope the best players will be fit. This is the reason why I have to follow more players."
England will be staying in Rustenburg, after Capello's fears over the state of the training pitches were eased.
"The facilities are okay, there were some problems with the pitches but I spoke to people there and they will be okay for June when we are in South Africa," he said.
"We found Rustenburg was the best place for us. It is quiet, good for security, is close to the stadium where we play the first game - everything is okay."
Before that, Capello wants to play Egypt at Wembley on March 3, then arrange a friendly with Mexico.
He added: "We have to decide. We are speaking with these countries but have not decided yet. "I think we will play March 3 at Wembley, against Egypt, then we have to find the date to play against Mexico. There are some problems, I don't know if we will play Sunday or Monday.
"All the friendly games we played were against European teams and we know the style of these teams. We have to play against South Americans and African teams with a different style."
Capello was speaking at the unveiling of Barnet's new training facilities, which were constructed with the help of the Football Foundation.
"It's a fantastic place for training, I've never seen one so big in Italy," Capello said. "Juventus or Inter Milan haven't got a training camp like this, it's incredible and surprised me.
"I'm very happy to see the young players and the women using it - it's very important for the sport."
Capello insists Manchester United striker Michael Owen, who he once described as his "tormentor", is still in his thoughts but needs to play regular football at Old Trafford.
"He is not a tormentor," Capello told BBC Radio Five Live.
"He is one of the players that I follow.
"I saw the last game he played, on television, and he scored three goals in the Champions League but the next game he did not play. For this reason, I ask myself why? Why (Wayne) Rooney plays always and Owen not? He is one of the important England players."
Owen has been in provisional squads recently and where he ranks come the end of the season will depend on injuries to other players.
At the moment Capello has 30 players in mind to compete for the 23 available places in the final World Cup squad.
"The players I choose will be fit and will play a lot of games," Capello said.
"In my mind I have 30 players because, I hope not, but if someone is not fit or injured, I have to decide the 23 players at the last moment.
"I follow all the players and check every moment what happened and when we decide, the players that will come with me to South Africa will be fit.
"I am checking the general situation in every game, if they improve or don't improve, or some young players who play one or two games.
"(James) Milner at the moment has changed position, from the wing and now like a (central) midfielder. (Wes) Brown played right-back last season and this year he has been centre-back."
Capello also insisted the high level of expectation is something positive, adding: "The expectation is really big. I understand fans think we are one of the best teams in the world. The confidence of the fans is good."Reuse content