Fabio Capello has reiterated to Michael Owen that he needs to gain more playing time with Manchester United if he wants to make England's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ squad. The Three Lions coach is in the process of narrowing down his options before selecting 23 players for the world finals.
Owen has scored more goals for England than any other active player, but has struggled for first-team action since joining United last summer. The 30-year-old striker recently admitted that he considers himself a "long shot" for a ticket to South Africa.
"One of the players (the fans) would like to see me select is Owen," Capello told Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport. "He is one of the best English goalscorers of all-time but if he doesn't play, I cannot pick him."
One player certain to feature, barring injury, is Owen's United team-mate Wayne Rooney. The 24-year-old has been in top form this season and his performances have earned Capello's praise.
"Wayne is an extraordinary player, he is talented and willing to learn," said the Italian. "(Sir Alex) Ferguson has taught him so much while I've only had to polish him.
"I have told him that he must make sure he plays inside the box and he must continue to score goals. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United has given Rooney more responsibility and he is now integral to their plans."
As for England's ambitions this summer, Capello does not rule out anything. "A top-four finish? It would be a good thing," he said.
"But I don't like to settle for anything even though in the Premier League, I only have 38 per cent of the players available for selection with respect to 67 per cent of Italy and 63 per cent of Spain. Of the rivals, the ones that have impressed me most have been Brazil and Spain."