Capello: Owen must be fit for purpose

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Fabio Capello insists the door has not slammed shut on Michael Owen's international career.

Owen became only the fourth England player to score 40 goals for his country 14 months ago but has struggled to impress the new coach since a series of muscular problems - and a suspicion prevails that Capello does not want a 'mere' goalscorer in his squad.

But Capello confirmed: "The door is open for every player. At this moment I am selecting the players who are in the best physical condition."

Owen's only chance to impress Capello came in a 45-minute cameo against France in March, the only game England have lost since the Italian got the job.

Seven years ago, Owen was getting all the headlines for his hat-trick in an even more stunning triumph than Wednesday's 2-1 win in Germany - a 5-1 demolition masterminded by Sven-Goran Eriksson.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that, even though Owen is yet to celebrate his 29th birthday and there are others in Capello's plans, notably David Beckham, who have far more years on the clock, the former Liverpool star is yesterday's man.

If fully fit and firing, it will be instructive to see whether Owen figures in the squad Capello names for the friendly with European Champions Spain in February.

For now, the England coach can hide behind the fact Owen does not meet his strict fitness criteria for international duty.

"To play at international level you have to be 100%," Capello added. "It is impossible to play at 60%.

"Owen did not come (to Germany) because in the last two games he played 20 minutes and 50 minutes. If he was okay, he would play all the game but he is not okay for the manager of Newcastle."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2008, All Rights Reserved.

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David Beckham
Michael Owen

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