International duty a revolving door
It was the ultimate expression of modern player power. In January, Sweden's
"I'm not motivated," he said. "I would be wasting energy for no reason, a sacrifice for nothing."
Barcelona will be his priority in 2010 while he takes time out from international football.
"There are so many games with Barcelona and so many things to think about that I barely have time to think about the national team," he added.
Few people batted an eye at the announcement. Such declarations are now commonplace. "I have no other choice," said
Dida's Milan teammate
While the likes of Scholes and Nesta have retired from the national team in order to lengthen their club careers, others have quit in a fit of pique at not being selected on a regular basis.
"Maybe I would have won 10 more caps over the last couple of years because Rio and John have missed a few games," conceded Carragher.
"The Euros were very negative, but what annoys me more is that Domenech is staying," he said.
Frustration with the coach is a familiar theme. Argentina's
Other players have been forced out by the fans.
The financial circumstances of many of today's players mean that they can afford to forego the "honor" of representing their country -- and the financial benefits from sponsorship deals that often result. The aptly named
Whereas once players referred to representing their country as a "duty," now they look for increasingly elaborate excuses to avoid international appearances.
Maybe the "spell" was broken as far back as 1978, when West Germany's
Up until then, with the exception of Pelé's retirement, international walkouts had tended to be the preserve of mavericks such as
Yet for all the modern-day players who consider the international game beneath them, the past decade has witnessed a new phenomenon -- the international comeback.
The lure of playing in his first World Cup was enough to persuade
But the prize as the
And now, with about three months until the World Cup finals kicks off in South Africa, the comebacks are starting again.
For host South Africa,
Riquelme continues to divide opinion in Argentina. The Boca Juniors playmaker is on record as saying that he expects to be spending this summer watching the World Cup on television as he remains aggrieved at Maradona's criticism of him. Yet there remains a sizable lobby in Argentina, including federation president
Van der Sar answered an emergency call from coach
Holland will be led this summer by
And the return to form of the greatest player of the past decade, Ronaldinho, suggests that he could yet play a major role for Brazil in South Africa (see box above).
When faced with deciding between an experienced veteran and a younger wild card, national coaches have a history of opting for experience. "You're looking for that player who may not be in form, but who adds that extra dimension to the squad," said
At the last World Cup,
With his loan move to Milan, Beckham has demonstrated, at the age of 35, that advancing years need not be a barrier to continued international ambition. Vieira's recent transfer to Manchester City was undertaken in the belief, however misguided, that he still has something to offer France.
It is not just in Europe that players are plotting their international comebacks.
Their chances of playing in South Africa may be slim, but they are offered hope by the recent case of Argentina's
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is unlikely to be missing from Sweden's lineup for quite so long.