Understandably, Ryan Nelsen is torn about Jermain Defoe and the World Cup.
Talk to the Toronto FC manager and he lists off the reasons why his star striker should go to Brazil. But he better than anyone knows that England’s gain would be his loss.
“Look, for Toronto FC I’d love him to stay obviously, because he’s a quality player,” said Nelsen, who captained New Zealand at the 2010 World Cup. “But for Jermain, if I was the England manager, I probably would pick him. Because you know what you’re going to get with him — you absolutely know what you’re going to get with him.”
Defoe, who played at the 2010 World Cup, offers England experience and a scoring touch off the bench. He has potted goals everywhere he has played — including 19 in 55 appearances for his country.
The 31-year-old striker says he is in the dark, waiting for the phone to ring.
“It’s down to the manager,” said Defoe, referring to England boss Roy Hodgson. “He picks the squad.
“I’m sure he knows what every player can do. And even before he was the England manager, he probably knew all the players anyway. So I’m sure that the manager knows his squad. And he probably knew his squad a long time ago — maybe just one or two additions that you’re not sure about.
“I don’t know. It’s up to the manager. As players, you just concentrate on playing for your club and then, like you said, you wait for the call.”
Hodgson has apparently made up his mind. He is set to announce his 23-man squad Monday as well as seven standby players.
“I’ve known for a while,” he is quoted on England’s Football Association website.
England will travel to Portugal on May 19 for a training camp that runs through May 23. The squad will reassemble May 27 with a friendly against Peru at Wembley on May. 20.
The 23-man World Cup squad will be confirmed June 2.
England has friendlies June 3 against Ecuador and June 7 against Honduras, both in Miami, before heading to Brazil for its World Cup opener June 14 against Italy.
Realistically Defoe is hoping to land a spot as a reserve striker with Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck of Manchester United, Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool and perhaps Rickie Lambert of Southampton ahead in the pecking order.
Given that, some argue that it would make more sense to take a younger player over Defoe. The argument there is that it would be an investment in the future.
Nelsen sees the other side to that coin, suggesting his man has the seasoning and mental toughness to survive the England spotlight.
“Probably the Brazil and the England national team are the hardest teams in world sport to play for, in terms of expectation and pressure,” he said. “You know Jermain can handle that. On the world’s biggest stage, you want to kind off knock out the variables. And I think Jermain does that.”
“With my TFC hat on, I hope he doesn’t (go). I hope he stays here,” Nelson added with a laugh.
Barring injury, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley and Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar will leave Toronto for the World Cup.
Nelsen expects Cesar to leave his team after the May 23 game against Sporting Kansas City.
“Jermain, if he does (go), (will be) roughly about the same time,” he added.
“(U.S. manager Juergen Klinsmann) Juergen wants Michael now. Or tomorrow,” Nelsen said with a smile. “But we’re trying to hold that. I think for Michael, it will probably be the 19th or the 20th that we lose him.”
The World Cup runs June 12 to July 13.