When Jamie Carragher retired from international football a couple of years ago I was disappointed but I totally understood his reasons for doing so. Despite being a player who marshalled a Liverpool defence to two Champions League finals in three years, he still was not an automatic first choice for England. It was however certainly not his fault that he had the misfortune of playing at the same time as two world class centre-backs in John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Carragher felt that if he was never to be a first choice for England in his favoured position he would, like Paul Scholes, focus the latter years of his career at club level with his beloved Liverpool. The hope was to extend his playing career at the top level by retiring from the international scene.
Now Carragher has revealed that he had an option last year of coming out of international retirement. A meeting had been arranged with England manager Fabio Capello’s assistant Franco Baldini at the behest of Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard, but Carragher never showed up and pulled out of the talks at the last minute:
It was more out of courtesy that I was going to do it. Stevie had mentioned it to me a couple of times, so I agreed to the meeting, but at the last minute I just didn’t want to do it. I don’t think my situation would change if I got back in the squad. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are first choice and they are two of the best central defenders in the world.
Such modesty is admirable from Carragher but there is no doubt that in previous years he could have competed with the likes of Terry and Ferdinand for a first team place. He is a different style of defender to both the Chelsea captain and Man Utd defender; he doesn’t rely on height or speed to get himself out of trouble. Anticipation, determination and his tackling abilities are his top attributes, and his partnership with either Terry or Ferdinand may have been more rewarding because of the difference of styles.
Since his retirement in 2007, both Terry and Ferdinand (but especially Rio) have suffered from injuries which have kept them out of many England games. Matthew Upson and Joleon Lescott have been the two players to cover in central defence but I can’t help thinking that Carragher would have played a greater part in these games if he had been available. It is something that Carragher has certainly thought about:
Maybe I would have won 10 more caps over the last couple of years because Rio and John have missed a few games, but you couldn’t ask for a better centre-half pairing than those two going into the World Cup.
So there are no regrets from the Liverpool veteran, but with Rio Ferdinand out with injury once again, will Carra slightly lament the fact he failed to take up the opportunity a year ago to come out of retirement? There are reasons to suggest he should: with injuries as they have been for Ferdinand over the last year, Carragher may have taken his place as first choice due to his fitness. Capello certainly was interested in bringing the player back from retirement and there may have been a consideration from the Italian manager last year that as Terry and Ferdinand had hardly played together recently due to injuries, he needed to find someone who was a consistent performer who could not only fill in but form a partnership with either the Chelsea captain or the Man United defender so as to be the mainstay in the team.
Carragher obviously did not feel this was going to be the case a year ago and has always felt that he would only ever play for England again if he was automatic first choice. He may just regret the decision in the future, for as Ferdinand continues to struggle with injuries and Capello continues to look for the best partner for John Terry, Carragher may have blown a chance of playing at a World Cup as a first team regular, but now out of the England picture, and lacking form, such a possibility looks relatively remote.