Given his popularity among his fellow professionals, it's no surprise that England players were out in their droves to back Rio Ferdinand to make an international return in the near future.

Having returned to fitness with starts against Stoke City and Basel and then a 14 minute cameo against Norwich City, Ferdinand would lend some much needed experience to Fabio Capello's England as they travel to Montenegro for their tricky Euro 2012 qualifier.

Other experienced heads, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Gareth Barry all make the trip, as does the recently returned Wayne Rooney, but not Ferdinand.

There's an argument that suggests that given his injury history, which saw his England appearances limited to two in 2010, should rule him out this game as he aims to get back to match fitness with his club.

Having played for United against Stoke, Basel and Norwich however, Capello would be within his rights to pick the player despite his managers' pessimism, it's not stopped him before.

Capello has been known to waver from his policy of picking only in form players, and given the importance of the match, would have been forgiven for leaving out any of the England's young protege's, such as Phil Jones, for some tried and tested experience.

However, the Italian has opted to leave out Ferdinand, seemingly fit and ready for selection, and instead plump for players who will surely make up England's future, but who are not blessed with international nouse.

 

Does this mean Ferdinand's international ship has sailed? Is the heartbreak of missing out on last year's World Cup, and the 2004 European Championships back to haunt him?

The latest selection, for the last competitive game until England play in Euro 2012, could turn out to be a big indicator for who Capello takes to Poland and Ukraine next summer.

With Chris Smalling having already made his debut in the win over Bulgaria and Jones seemingly destined to start against Montenegro on Friday evening, where does this leave Ferdinand?

If the Manchester United man isn't a starter, then is there any worth in bringing him to the championships at all? If Capello puts his trust in youth, then Ferdinand could be surplus to requirements.

Having never featured in a European Championships, with his ban for missing a drugs test overlapping the tournament in 2004, and England failing to qualify in 2008, Ferdinand may see next summer as a last hurrah for his country.

Such are his injury problems, his disgruntlement that came with being stripped of the England captaincy a year after being handed the armband following John Terry's indiscretions and the talent waiting in the wings, Ferdinand may see it as perfect timing to retire from international football.

The question is, if Jones and Smalling are ahead of him in the pecking order for his country, where does that leave his career with United?

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#Rio Ferdinand