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Calgary-born midfielder Owen Hargreaves, left, has 42 caps for England. ((Mark Thompson/Getty Images))

Fabio Capello insists there is still time for injured Manchester United star Owen Hargreaves to earn a spot on England's roster for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

But the England manager warned that the Calgary-born midfielder would have to see regular action for Manchester United over the next few months for him to be included in the England team.

Hargreaves, 28, only recently returned to training after two knee operations and spending 14 months on the sidelines.

"Why not? He can because he has time to recover everything. He has to play. Players who do not play will not be with me," Capello told reporters on Tuesday

The Italian added: "I spoke to [Hargreaves] two months ago, I met him in Manchester and he was just ready to start training. But now he is not fit.

"He has six months to recover his good form but he needs to play. I will choose players that will be fit in May, the players that play all the games."

Hargreaves broke the hearts of Canadian soccer fans in 2001 when he suited up for England's national team, pledging his international soccer allegiance to the English.

A FIFA bylaw that allows a player to represent the birth nation of his parents gave Hargreaves the option of playing for England (his father's homeland) or Wales (his mother's birth nation), in addition to Canada.

Hargreaves was England's best player at the 2006 World Cup in Germany but his career has been dogged by persistent injuries since joining Manchester United from German club Bayern Munich in 2007.

With 42 caps to his credit, Hargreaves last saw action for England in an exhibition match versus the United States in May. The last game he played in was in September 2008 for Manchester United.

He was expected to rejoin Manchester United in August, but was forced to delay his comeback and he still hasn't returned to full training with the rest of the team.

During his prolonged absence, Hargreaves's place as the English national team's top defensive midfielder has been taken over by Manchester City star Gareth Barry.

In a recent interview with CBCSports.ca, Henry Winter, chief soccer correspondent for The Daily Telegraph newspaper in England, hailed Hargreaves's talent, extolling him as "a great credit to the sports system that you have in" Canada.

"I've never really seen him have a bad game," Winter said. "When he's on the field, he makes a difference — whether it 's wining the ball, creating, free kicks, penalty kicks. He's a special player and I would definitely have him in England's starting lineup [at the World cup] if he is fit."