Beckham left to sweat on his England future

Sam Wallace,Pete Jenson
Monday 28 January 2008 01:00
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Fabio Capello is understood to be having serious doubts over whether David Beckham is fit enough to be included in his first England squad, due to be named on Thursday. The England manager is also considering breaking with tradition and naming his first squad in two different stages over the next five days.

Capello's doubts over Beckham, 32, are based on the fact that the player – who would potentially win his 100th cap next week in the friendly against Switzerland – has not been involved in a competitive game since his Los Angeles Galaxy side missed out on the Major League Soccer play-offs in October. Beckham will be in the northern part of Brazil this week to launch the latest development of his soccer academy – a base in the beach resort of Natal.

Although Beckham has been training with Arsenal since early January, Capello is understood to be unconvinced that he is fit enough to figure in the game against Switzerland on 6 February.

However, the Italian is playing his cards extremely close to his chest. Not even the Football Association is yet sure whether to give the go-ahead for some kind of event to mark Beckham winning his 100th cap.

While Capello is not giving away many clues as to Beckham's future, he has also sounded out FA officials on changing the usual way of naming England squads. Under Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren the squads were named on the Friday before the weekend that preceded an England camp. Capello is proposingnaming 30 players on Thursday and whittling that down to 23 on Saturday night.

At the moment, the FA is working on the basis that Capello's final squad will be named on Saturday night around 7pm, although that could yet change. It will make for a nervous week for the England squad, none of whom has yet had contact with Capello, although Gary Neville, whose England career is threatened by long-term injury, no doubt exchanged pleasantries with the Italian as they found themselves seated together at Old Traffod yesterday.

Should Beckham be left out of this England squad then Capello has not yet ruled out picking him for one of the four friendlies coming up before England's first World Cup qualifier this autumn. England play France on 26 March.

There has been contact between Tony Colbert, the Arsenal fitness coach, and Massimo Neri, Capello's fitness coach, over the state of Beckham's readiness. The player has been on a fitness programme tailored to his specific needs over the last month. This week he is expected to stay in Brazil for a couple of days. LA Galaxy's season starts again in March.

Capello has reportedly been impressed with, among others, Blackburn Rovers' David Bentley, whom he watched in their draw with Aston Villa on Saturday, and Tottenham Hotspur's Aaron Lennon and is believed to feel it would set a bad precedent if he does not go with this strongest, fittest, most in-form squad.

The former Real Madrid coach has a healthy relationship with Beckham, despite the pair having had their differences at the Bernabeu during their time there last season before Beckham's move to the US.

The Italian has not finalised his first selection for the Switzerland game and he may even consult Beckham this week over his fitness.

If Capello does stick to his guns, leaving Beckham out, it will again pose questions over Beckham's ability to continue his international career while playing Major League Soccer for LA Galaxy.

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