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By ESPN Staff

Bentley questions usefulness of France friendly

David Bentley has claimed England produced a 'half-hearted' display against France because key players were preparing for Champions League quarter-finals and the Premier League title race.

The Blackburn midfielder came off the bench to replace David Beckham for the last half-hour of a drab 1-0 defeat in Paris and did not particularly enjoy the experience.

Michael Owen has insisted England players never lack passion when playing for their country but Bentley believes the Football Association was wrong to organise an international so close to the climax of the season.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are all in Champions League action this week and provided eight of England's starting XI.

Bentley said: 'It was a strange game. It wasn't very enjoyable. It wasn't the best of games watching from the bench.

'It's the stage of the season we're at. I don't think there should be a game like that anyway.

'I think it was a difficult situation. A lot of the lads are preparing themselves for the Premier League and the Champions League so it can be difficult to play a game like that for both sides. It was a half-hearted, 50% effort.

'Everyone wants to play well for England but sometimes it just happens like that.

'It wasn't enjoyable for me but you try to have an effect on the game, you go out there and try to have an effect but it is difficult to get into a game like that.'

Bentley is in talks with Blackburn over a new contract and although Rovers manager Mark Hughes said the club are 'trying to offer him more money', it is European football the midfielder craves.

Blackburn are still in the hunt for a UEFA Cup spot - but Bentley has been linked with a move to Liverpool and he is keen to play at the highest level in order to make the England jersey his own in time for the 2010 World Cup.

'It's a big decision in my life at the minute. I want to play European football, I want to play at the top of my game,' he said.

'I want to go to the World Cup in two years and I want to be starting - so sometimes you have to make strong decisions, we'll have to see what happens.

'Time will tell over the next few months what will happen. I'm speaking to Blackburn at the minute but you never know in football what's going to happen.'

Asked if Blackburn missing out on Europe would precipitate a move away from Ewood Park, Bentley added: 'I won't answer that. I'll leave it up to you to decide.'

Bentley must force his way ahead of David Beckham, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon if he is to become a regular on England's right flank.

'I'm in the early stages of my England career. I'm going to have to work hard, it's up to me to take the position. There's a lot of good players in this country,' said Bentley.

'But if I perform then I believe I can take it, so we'll have to see.'