Paul Scholes has rejected suggestions that a desire to spend the summer with his family lay behind his rejection of an England World Cup call-up, revealing that he would probably have accepted if Fabio Capello had asked him earlier.
When the Football Association called Scholes on 10 May, the eve of Capello's announcement of his 30-man preliminary squad, Scholes said he needed to "sleep on it" and when contacted the following morning said he had decided against. But despite Capello's suggestion several hours later that Scholes "preferred to stay with his family", the 35-year-old, who retired from international football in 2004, said he had been given an inadequate period of time to consider the offer.
"It's a big decision and I wasn't really given enough time to think about it, so I decided not to take up the offer," Scholes told his local paper, the Oldham Evening Chronicle when he appeared at the opening of changing rooms at local club Chadderton Park. "If they'd asked me earlier I probably would have accepted."
Scholes, like Jamie Carragher – who accepted Capello's request – said he was also concerned about denying a place to another player who had travelled the length and breadth of Europe to ensure qualification for the nation. "There are players in the squad who have spent nearly two years flying all around the world helping England qualify for the World Cup, whereas I haven't been involved for a long time," Scholes said. "It wasn't a case of wanting to go on holiday, it was the fact that I got the call so close to the tournament, and also I didn't want to take the place of someone who helped get England to South Africa. The idea just didn't sit comfortably with me."
Scholes's decision has deprived Capello of arguably the outstanding central midfield player in the Premier League, over the last six weeks of the season, and a player who was ranked eighth in the short lived Capello Index, by which the Italian ranked Premier League players on a number of criteria.
Scholes's declaration is sure to be a source of frustration to Capello if it comes to his attention, since there is evidence to suggest the Italian coveted having the Manchester United player at his disposal for England for years – even before becoming manager. In his final appearance as a TV pundit, for La Domenica Sportiva on Italian television, before signing a contract as England manager Capello said there were "one or two players who are retired but who I hope to bring back." He seems to have had in mind Carragher and Scholes, the latter of whom impressed him deeply with the way he had reinvented himself as a deeper-lying midfielder when age had started to limit his potential further forward.
But Scholes, who participated in two World Cups and two European Championships in a seven-year England career, is history now for Capello, who knew when he approached the United player that Gareth Barry was unlikely to play a part against the United States in England's opener next Saturday. Barry confirmed yesterday that he will definitely miss the fixture in Rustenburg.
Scholes also considers the absence of his team-mate Rio Ferdinand a significant blow. "I really feel for Rio, especially getting hurt so close to the start of the action," he said. "It's not just sad for Rio but for England as well, because he is captain and an important figure."