Leading article: Golden boot

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The Independent Online

Fabio Capello would not be human, let alone Italian, if he was not at least "a little bit" mystified about the storm that has erupted over his gentle comment that David Beckham was, at 35, just "a little bit old" to be guaranteed a place in the England squad. Perhaps no one has got around to breaking it to him that Beckham is not a football player but a British institution, a role model for our youth and a bottomless mine of stories for the nation's journalists. We're not just talking football here: there's his fame, his wealth, his wife, his tattoos, his hair, his clothes, his football academy, his all-round good-blokeishness.

But then, what was encouraging about England's victory over Hungary this week was the presence of many new, young faces. These belong to stars whose time is ahead of, and not behind, them. The baton is being passed between generations, and about time too. The irony is that Capello probably thought he was being unusually courteous to Beckham by expressing his thoughts about the star's fate. They manage these things quite otherwise in Italy: ask Alessandro del Piero or Filippo Inzaghi, national heroes both, how they felt about being dropped from the Azzurri without a word, let alone a final friendly.