Fabio Capello has warned Steven Gerrard that he will have to sacrifice his ambition to be England's main man if he wants to keep his place in the national side. The 28-year-old recently claimed he had only played in his favoured central midfield role in five of his 68 England appearances.
The Liverpool star often found himself deployed on the right wing during Steve McClaren's reign, while Capello has also used him in a variety of positions. And although the Italian knows Gerrard's reputation as one of the best midfielders in the world is well deserved, he refuses to build his team around one individual - no matter how talented.
Even at Liverpool, Rafa Benitez rarely uses Gerrard in the centre of a two-man midfield because he fears his desire to produce match-changing moments can leave him out of position if possession is lost. It did not help Gerrard's cause that England produced their best performance for years, a 4-1 win in Croatia, when he was missing through injury last month.
Gerrard returned to the squad for Wednesday's 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM qualifier against Belarus in Minsk, but Capello has made it clear he will not change his team-first philosophy to accommodate his desires. "Gerrard is a fantastic player but he is one of 11 players on the pitch," said the former Real Madrid coach.
"He is an important player for sure, but he is one of the 11. We win and lose together. I don't know how many times he played for England before. .
"I know the best position for Gerrard but for me he can play two or three different positions. It depends on the game and the opponents. Sometimes he can play in one position and sometimes in others. With me he played three times, always in midfield. I hope in these three games he was with me. In my career I tried to put players in their best positions where they can play 100 per cent."
Failure to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008, and the inevitable criticism that followed, left England's players at a low ebb last season, with international duty increasingly something to be endured rather than enjoyed. But the victory over Croatia has given England a renewed sense of belief that Capello believes could herald the start of a successful period.
"At this moment England football is changing. There is a different style on the pitch and in training," he said. "After we lost the qualification for the EUROs we played with fear. This is the worst thing for the team. After the Croatia game I hope it is the start of a new era."
Yet a succession of England coaches have found it impossible to cope with the relentless scrutiny and demands for success that come with the position. Even one as experienced as Capello admits it is a steep learning curve to take charge of a national team for the first time, but he is relishing working outside his comfort zone.
". It is the most important job," he said. "For me it is different to be the manager of a national team. When you are training every day it is easy to change some mistakes. You can find the right way quicker.
"For this reason when you are England manager it is not an easy job. It is a different mentality. But it is a fantastic experience for me. I hope it is not an impossible job."
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