David Beckham gets World Cup nod from Fabio Capello
Published 22:33 10/09/09 By By Martin Lipton
David Beckham will be given the chance to become England’s most-capped player at the World Cup next summer.
Fabio Capello last night gave the clearest possible signal that former skipper Becks will be included in his final party of 23 for South Africa.
It means Beckham, who earned his 114th cap against Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday, will be handed the opportunity to end his England career with the ultimate team glory - and overtake Peter Shilton’s all-time record.
Capello’s England will have six games before the World Cup, starting against Ukraine and Belarus next month, and a potential seven matches if they go all the way in South Africa.
That presents Beckham, who has been earmarked for a role as a last 20 minute “closer”, replacing either Theo Walcott or Aaron Lennon on the right and taking the sting out of games when England have got ahead, with the twin targets of a World Cup winners' medal and setting a remarkable record.
Although Beckham has started just one of England’s eight qualifiers so far - against Andorra in June - he has come off the bench in all the others, while only Gareth Barry has made more appearances under Capello than the former Manchester United and Real Madrid man.
Beckham can become the oldest English outfield World Cup player since Tom Finney, who was 36 when he played against the Soviet Union in 1958, and the first Englishman to play in four World Cup tournaments.
And Capello hinted that Beckham is a shoo-in for the final 23 as long as he stays fit, because of what he can give both on and off the pitch.
Capello said: “We will have to wait and see what happens in the next few months.
“But David Beckham is always with us because, for me, he is an important player.
“He is good in the group, he is good at every moment in training. Some players are important for the position and morale of the group.”
Beckham’s position will be underpinned if he returns to AC Milan on loan from LA Galaxy in January, a move that appeared on the cards last night as San Siro director Umberto Gandini suggested the club wanted the former England captain back.
Gandini said: “We are very open. We are discussing the possibility of the agreement and we are aware of what David is saying, what David is thinking.
“We have our convictions and therefore we think we are going towards a deal. He’s an icon, a brand. He’s a lot of things for many people. For us he’s an excellent player and we would like him back.”
But while Beckham will travel, to South Africa, Capello is poised to give up on injury-plagued Spurs skipper Ledley King, and admitted the balance and final make-up of his squad could depend on the fitness of Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves.
Capello was embroiled in a row with Spurs boss Harry Redknapp when he tried to call up King last season, while Hargreaves last played for England against the USA at Wembley 16 months ago and missed virtually all of last term with an ongoing knee problem.
The manager said: “I spoke with the Manchester United doctor and Hargreaves will be back in two months.
“But then he has to play and I don’t know if he will be ready.
“The problem with King is the knee. We would have to speak with him and the club to decide something. The problem with King is he has to spend four days with the physios after playing a game.
“We have to make sure we choose the best players and the fittest players. They need to be fit, really fit. We will be 23 players and in the past England have taken injured players.”
If Hargreaves is fit, his versatility and ability to cover at full-back as well as play in the holding midfield role will create space for an extra attacking weapon in the final squad, although Aston Villa’s James Milner also appears to be edging into the likely list on similar grounds.