Monday, 30 March 2009

Capello casts shadow over Owen

Fabio Capello has dropped his strongest hint yet that Michael Owen's England career is at an end.

The notoriously unsympathetic Italian underlined the widespread theory that he does not possess one nostalgic bone in his considerable frame when he promoted Darren Bent in place of the injured Emile Heskey ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.

The move marks a significant death knell in the international career of England's fourth highest goalscorer.

Owen's career has been beset by a string of demoralising injury lay-offs and he only returned recently from ankle ligament trouble to start Newcastle's draw with Hull - only to be dropped for the subsequent game against Arsenal.

The luckless 29-year-old has 40 goals from 89 caps and is just nine short of Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time record of 49.

Capello's preference towards a more physical lone presence and Owen’s time on the treatment table has made for an uneasy relationship. Capello has given Owen just one cap during his reign so far, as a substitute in the friendly defeat to France in Paris 12 months ago, and has also overlooked the former Liverpool and Real Madrid goal-getter when match-fit.

However, given that Carlton Cole has also pulled out of England's vital World Cup qualifier against Ukraine because of a groin strain, this latest snub smacks of a blatant disregard for Owen as an international force.

"I have to choose players to play against the Ukraine, not against history," Capello warned. He added: "I have chosen the best players who are in good form at the moment.

"It is impossible to choose someone who has only played for 20 minutes. Why didn't he play the last game?"

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