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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 18, 2009

Jamie Carragher spurns England approach

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has revealed he turned down an invitation from Fabio Capello to return to the England setup.

Carragher, 31, won 34 caps for his country but announced his international retirement in the summer of 2007.

However, with encouragement from club captain Steven Gerrard he initially agreed to meet Capello's assistant Franco Baldini, but changed his mind at the last moment.

Carragher told the Times: "I was supposed to meet Franco Baldini for a chat a year ago and at the last minute I pulled out. 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.

"Maybe I would have won ten 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.''

Carragher also said he would rather leave Liverpool than play for them when he is past his best.

"I wouldn't want to get to 34 or 35 with Liverpool and have people thinking, 'He's well gone.''' he added. "So I do think about whether it would be better to go while I'm still at a decent level and play out my days at another club.

"I do worry about maybe playing in big games for Liverpool and perhaps costing the side, and I also think about not playing every week and whether I could do that.

"Over the next year or two I'll probably have a decision to make. I'd love to stay at Liverpool - that's what I want to do - but there are different things that I think about that may compromise that.''

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes players like Carragher are part of a dying breed.

''Maybe someone will do it but it will be very difficult. Now there is too much money around the world in football,'' said the Liverpool manager. ''If you have a good player normally someone will make a good offer and the agents have too much power.

''Modern football is more difficult so 600 games in a top side for a local player is a massive achievement.

''I think it is amazing. At this time with modern football, to play 600 times for the same team and be a local player is a fantastic achievement. He is a very good example for the younger players. He trains 100% in every session and that is good for the mentality of the team.

''Carra has a strong character, passion, he likes to win every game, and that is the type of player you are looking for. The last five and a half years have been really good. He was playing as a left-back, right-back and now he has settled down as a centre-back.

''He knows he can help the others and is always talking. That is now one of his main strengths as he can organise the defence. He has improved his game and, because he is a centre-back, he has time and he will play for a long time.

''He has 18 months left on his contract and he is clever; he knows that when a player is over 30 you have to manage them in a different way than when you sign a player who is 20 years old.

''I don't see any problem if he continues to play at the same level and we will talk about this in the future as we have a fantastic relationship with him and his agent.

''He is taking care of himself, he is a very good professional, and I think he can play a lot of years.''

Benitez also thinks Carragher will make a good coach and, possibly, even manage Liverpool one day.

''He knows the game. We talk about football all the time and he is someone you have to listen to,'' said the current Reds boss. ''He is doing some practice in the academy, so I think he will be a manager - hopefully not the Liverpool manager in the next four or five years but in the future.''

While much of the focus has been on Carragher's landmark appearance, Benitez has been concentrating on planning for victory at bottom side Portsmouth to maintain the momentum created by Wednesday's win over Wigan.

He has former Pompey full-back Glen Johnson back after injury and winger Ryan Babel returning following an ankle problem.

''Portsmouth is a tricky game because it is a Saturday early kick-off,'' said the Spaniard.

''They have had problems but now with Avram Grant they have a manager with experience and they did well against Chelsea (in a 2-1 midweek defeat).''

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