The ever-lasting lure of international football

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Craig Bellamy has been included in the Wales squad for next week's Gary Speed Memorial match against Costa Rica, a game that could well be his last at international level.

The 32-year-old Liverpool striker was persuaded to prolong his Wales career by Speed, and was devastated when the late manager died back in November. He has since revealed he is considering international retirement after the final send-off on February 29.

"I don't know whether I'll play on for Wales," Bellamy told the Daily Mirror last month. "I do think it's going to be difficult for me to play because of the impact of what happened.

"I am committed to the Costa Rica game and then it might be my last. I'm not too sure. It might be but it might not. There are a lot of people I need to talk to. Wales has meant everything to me. It has been the highlight of my career."

New Wales boss Chris Coleman has expressed his desire for Bellamy to play on into the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, but the forward - who has 19 goals in 67 appearances for his country - may feel that it is the right time to move on, in the dawn of a new era for Welsh football, under a new manager.

"I believed in him [Speed] that much as a manager and I believed in him that much as a person, I actually thought we were going to qualify for the World Cup," he added.

"I wanted him [Speed] to have that satisfaction as well because I saw how hard he tried for Wales and how hard he played. To try to qualify and him not be there, I don't know."

Much of Bellamy's career has been blighted by serious knee injuries and the Cardiff-born player has had to carefully manage his fitness and playing demands.

But having impressed for Liverpool this season after leaving their Premier League rivals Manchester City for a second spell at Anfield, it's easy to see why Coleman and Co. want the influential veteran to stay in the international fold.

"We need Craig Bellamy, not just because of his ability but also because of his mentality," said Coleman. "He can be demanding and difficult but also he wants things done right and sometimes that pushes people in the right direction, so I hope he stays."

Wales assistant Osian Roberts added: "The form he's been in with Liverpool has been absolutely fantastic this year and for us it's imperative he's in the team and around the squad, because not only is he influential on the pitch, he's extremely influential off the pitch and in the dressing room.

"They all look up to him, he's the ultimate professional. He trains like he plays, with great intensity, and that's why you have to manage the workload with him. He sets the standards and makes sure that players around him also are raising the bar and he's a great example to any young player out there. And as a result that rubs off on the others, be that on the training pitch, on the pitch itself, or in the dressing room."

As a mourning nation prepares to bid farewell to not one, but potentially two of Wales’ footballing favourites, GMF considers some other Premier League players who have question marks hanging over their international futures.

TOTTENHAM | Emmanuel Adebayor - Togo

Emmanuel Adebayor decided to return to the Togo national team after a 19-month absence back in November 2011.

The former Togolese captain quit the international scene in April 2010, three months after the nation's team bus was the subject of a gun attack, which killed three people during the African Nations Cup in Angola.

The Togolese Football Federation (FTF) said in a statement: "Emmanuel Adebayor has reiterated his willingness to be back with the national team of Togo in view of the 2013 African Nations Cup and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

"He hopes that a new football chapter can be opened. He is committed to playing at the start of qualifying games for those two competitions."

MANCHESTER CITY | Yaya Toure - Ivory Coast

Yaya Toure is thinking about calling time on his international career with Ivory Coast to focus all his energy on Manchester City.

The 28-year-old midfielder suffered the disappointment of losing the Africa Cup of Nations final to Zambia on penalties earlier this month and is now considering his future.

"We will see whether I carry on," Toure recently told the Sunday Mirror. "I have to think about what is best for me, for my club and for my country.

"I love playing for Ivory Coast so it is not an easy thing to think about. City are my club. I have a duty to them because I am a professional, but I also needed to play for my country."

MANCHESTER UNITED | Paul Scholes - England

The 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign will surely be a stretch too far for the Old Trafford veteran, but Paul Scholes will seriously consider a return to international football ahead of this summer's European Championships - eight years after his last England game.

The 37-year-old midfielder, came out of retirement last month to help Manchester United's push for a 20th League title, and now prospective new Three Lions boss Harry Redknapp has said he would love to have him in his squad if he took over.

The United star, who quit last May after the Champions League final loss to Barcelona, has already admitted regretting not answering Fabio Capello's call to the 2010 World Cup, and now could find the lure of a last chance to play in a major tournament too good to turn down.

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