Fabio Capello has warned David Beckham he will not be influenced by sentiment when he decides if the England midfielder deserves to win his 100th cap against Switzerland. Capello names his first squad since succeeding Steve McClaren in just over a fortnight ahead of the friendly match at Wembley on 6 February, and Beckham hopes to be in it as he aims to become only the fifth England player to reach a century of appearances.
The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder had a tempestuous relationship with Capello when he played under the Italian at Real Madrid, but eventually won him over and helped land the Spanish La Liga title in his last season with the club. Now Capello must decide whether the 32-year-old deserves to hold off the challenge of younger, more dynamic players such as Chelsea's Shaun Wright-Phillips and Blackburn Rovers ace David Bentley.
If Capello does opt to keep faith with the former Manchester United star, who is currently training with Arsenal to keep fit during the MLS off-season, it will not be to do him a favour. He will have to join Billy Wright, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Peter Shilton in the 100 club on merit.
"All managers have sentiment but they also need to take decisions," said Capello. "Beckham is important for England and can still give a lot, but as everybody knows, all the players are equally important to me and start from the same position, including David Beckham."
Capello will have the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ in mind when he considers the Beckham issue. In his first official duty since his England appointment, Capello travelled to Zagreb on Monday to arrange the fixture list for the qualifying campaign. After an eight-hour meeting, the Italian emerged satisfied after getting his wish to have a September clash with their main Group 6 rivals Croatia.
The 61-year-old believes England will be strong when they travel to Zagreb after a summer of rest following their failure to reach UEFA EURO 2008, while Croatia will still be tired after their exertions at the tournament. "September is a good month for English footballers, so given the fact Croatia are our strongest opponents, to play them then is ideal," said Capello.
Capello's first competitive match as England coach will be against Andorra. While a 16-hour round trip to Kazakhstan in June is hardly ideal, he will lobby strongly for an evening kick-off to take the edge off what are expected to be stifling conditions.
The Italian will now focus on arranging friendlies leading up to those qualifiers. Eastern European opponents can be expected at Wembley for the scheduled August friendly, while it now appears likely England will snub the opportunity of a close-season tour in favour of remaining closer to home.
It is anticipated at least one of two planned May fixtures will take place at Wembley, with FA sources stressing a proposed meeting with Scotland is still on the agenda.