It would have been one of the most romantic stories of the season. Just weeks after Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson talked his 35 year old midfielder Paul Scholes out of retirement, England supremo Fabio Capello was planning to end his six year exile from international football by naming him in his provisional 30 man squad for South Africa.
The England boss had outlined the role he wanted Scholes to play in the World Cup as one of the two holding midfielders where he could use his experience and intelligence but after indicating that he was ready to take up the challenge, the 65 times capped former international had a late change of heart.
Capello went to bed on Monday night believing that he had convinced Scholes to be part of the squad but when chief lieutenant Franco Baldini made the agreed call back the next morning just hours before the squad was announced, Scholes’ stance had altered, claiming that he had grave doubts about the decision forcing the England boss to rethink his plans.
After being successful in persuading Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher to take up the call to England arms, Capello had high hopes in his pursuit of Scholes who quit the international scene after Euro 2004 because he felt he was being misused by then boss Sven Goran Eriksson.
It was a remarkable event on a bizarre England day although Capello opted not to criticise Scholes for his abrupt change of heart. “I tried hard to persuade him” Capello said “we have been monitoring him for the second part of the season when he’s played very well. We tried to convince him to come back for England because he is one of the best midfielders. It was up to him but in the end he said no preferring to have a holiday with his family”
Capello initially made contact with Scholes upon taking up the reins with the national team 17 months ago to seek clarification on the reasons for the players’ retirement from international football at the relatively young age of 29. He was satisfied at the time that Scholes was unlikely to change his mind and did not intend to revisit the issue. His belated attempt to lure the United veteran however suggests that Capello is far from satisfied with his central midfield options.
Asked if he had perhaps tried to open channels of communication with Scholes too late, Capello appeared unrepentant that he had done the right thing. The England boss alluded to the success of his conversations with Carragher as he added “We did not leave it too late because we tried to speak to him for a long time. It was the same with Carragher, a long time, for over two years. In his case he decided to join us”
“I decided to select the best players” he continued “I had to try and convince players like Scholes and Carragher. We spoke with them two months ago and Carragher said that he had to think about it. Then he said yes a few weeks ago, he wanted to come with us”
As for Scholesy, an opportunity to make a sensational international return to the world stage was rejected by the man himself.
Should Scholes have accepted the invitation to help Englands cause in South Africa?