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Lampard still believes Ferdinand could return

ESPN staff
March 19, 2013 « Odemwingie could buy out contract | Chartbeat test »
Will Ferdinand play for England again?

Frank Lampard believes Rio Ferdinand's England career may not have come to an end, despite his contentious withdrawal from the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

Manchester United defender Ferdinand has come under fire in the British media after pulling out of Roy Hodgson's squad on fitness grounds, despite persistent complaints at being overlooked by England over the last couple of years.

Despite this latest controversy, Lampard insists his former West Ham team-mate has what it takes to resume his England career in time for the World Cup finals next summer, offering a stout defence of a central defender who has played for his country on 81 occasions.

When asked to comment on Ferdinand's withdrawal at an England media conference, Lampard was quick to insist the 34-year-old still has what it takes to perform on the international stage after his recent return to form in Manchester United colours.

"He's a top drawer player Rio, certainly not finished," stated Lampard. "You see his performances against Real Madrid, particularly away where he was absolutely outstanding.

"He is a top performer. I don't know the ins and outs of his future, where it will go, but the way he is playing at the minute, he is certainly one of the top defenders in the Premier League.

"I was sorry for him [having to pull out] and the team because he has been in fantastic form. Sorry to lose a player of fantastic quality, but this is about the squad getting the results it needs.

"I know he is a very determined and professional lad, but I honestly don't know enough about his situation to say what might happen (in the future)."

Ferdinand's long-standing fitness issues were the reason for his decision to skip England's next two qualifiers and Lampard admits he understands the dilemma of trying to continue an international career as your playing days wind towards a conclusion.

"When you get over 30 and more, you have to manage yourself differently," he stated. "Train more, train less, rest periods, particularly the lads who have picked up injuries earlier in their career.

"I know Rio has been very disciplined in keeping on top of himself to make sure he gets the most out of his career, so a lot of respect for that. Every individual is different.

"I used to train harder as a kid and probably had the capacity to do so without feeling it would affect me in games. I used to do longer running. As you get older, you become aware of how to rest and maintain yourself. I don't think you can prolong yourself to the levels of someone like Ryan Giggs without getting past the 30 mark and looking at it from a slightly different angle."

Lampard went on to pay tribute to former England striker Michael Owen, after he announced his intention to retire at the end of the current Premier League season, as he hailed his superb goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup finals as Owen's finest moment on the international stage.

"Fantastic player, the kind of player you are very proud to play alongside," he said of Owen. "I played with him quite a few times.

"I watched him score goals for England in World Cups when I wasn't there, so I think he will go down in our history in England as one of the greatest goalscorers and strikers we've had. He deserves very high praise.

"The hat-trick in Munich [in 2001] was obviously fantastic, but to come on at the age that he did against Argentine with a bang, and score a goal of such eye-catching quality, was something very special. It is one of those moments that sticks in everyone's mind. Not just Michael Owen moments, but England in general.

"Without maybe some injury problems at the latter end, he would have gone on and broken all the goalscoring records and probably got 100 caps, but he should not have any real frustrations because his career was absolutely top drawer for club and country."

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