Rooney's fitness riddle for Capello

England manager must second-guess Ferguson over striker's readiness to return
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Fabio Capello has not ruled out picking Wayne Rooney in the England squad for the friendly against Spain next Wednesday, despite the Manchester United striker having missed the last three weeks with injury.

Rooney will be among the 30 players who will get prior notification via their clubs this week that they are being considered for selection in the squad that will be announced on Saturday night. He injured a hamstring in the 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic on 14 January and has not figured for United since, although he is understood to have taken part in full training sessions for the last two days.

Capello's policy thus far has been not to select players who are carrying an injury or have not been playing for their clubs. However, in the case of Rooney he feels that he may have to make an exception because he has so few options to replace him. Jermain Defoe has a broken metatarsal, Theo Walcott is still recovering from shoulder surgery and even Michael Owen, who was in line for a recall to the squad, has an ankle injury. Emile Heskey, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Peter Crouch are all fit.

That leaves just Rooney among Capello's recognised strikers. There is a chance that he will feature against West Ham at Upton Park on Sunday, which is a game that Capello plans to watch. However, there are issues with United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who is justifiably going to be anxious about Rooney playing so soon after coming back from injury, especially at such a critical stage of the season.

Ferguson might take the view that Rooney would benefit from a run-out for England in Seville. The problem for Capello is that he plans to name his 23-man squad on Saturday and will not know then whether Ferguson plans to involve Rooney against West Ham. Should Rooney not figure at all on Sunday, it will make it difficult for Capello to justify taking him to Spain.

If Rooney does play against West Ham, Capello will expect him to travel with the rest of the squad. The England manager has adopted a hardline policy on injury and withdrawals, and wants players to do everything possible to make sure they are available for friendlies as well as competitive fixtures.

Capello was hit with an unprecedented number of withdrawals for his final game of last year, the friendly against Germany in Berlin on 19 November, a game which Rooney also missed because of a chest injury. Before that match Capello requested that Steven Gerrard present himself for examination by the England medical department to verify the seriousness of an adductor muscle injury.

David Beckham, who played for Milan in a friendly against Rangers in Glasgow last night, is also a serious contender to make a return to the squad, having been left out for the Germany game. Also in Capello's thoughts are the West Ham striker Carlton Cole, the Everton defender Phil Jagielka, who was capped against Trinidad & Tobago last year, and Scott Parker, called up to the squad in Berlin.

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