Fernando Gago is taking advantage of injuries at Real Madrid to play his way back into Argentina's World Cup plans.
Gago featured regularly in Argentina coach Diego Maradona's lineup during qualifying for this summer's finals. But Gago hasn't been included in Argentina's team lately after spending most of the Spanish league season on the sidelines after falling out of favour with Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini.
After hiring a personal coach and playing well while Lassana Diarra and Mahamadou Diarra have been out, Gago is again on the radar even after a January transfer to Manchester City to gain extra playing time fell through.
"The World Cup is still far away," Gago said. "But you have to have an objective in life and mine is to play."
Gago has played well for four straight games — all victories for the Spanish leader — after having featured just five times in the previous 26. Gago was a regular in the two-plus seasons before Pellegrini's summer arrival and helped Madrid win consecutive league crowns in 2007 and '08.
"That's football, that's Madrid," Gago said. "I just have to keep playing this way, I have to keep working. I have to show it on the field."
Gago reportedly hired a personal trainer to help bulk up and sharpen his skills with most of his playing time having come just from practice sessions. His patience appears to be paying off as Pellegrini's two preferred holding midfielders have been hampered by injuries in 2010.
Maradona openly criticized Madrid director general Jorge Valdano this year, saying the club was trying to get rid of the little used Gago, who had a last-ditch effort to move to Manchester City blocked by the Spanish giant at the winter transfer deadline.
"I'm happy because it's always nicer to be playing football. I'm calm," the former Boca Juniors player said. "I've always given the same level for the coach, who I have no problems with. I don't like much not playing but that's only helped me believe."
Gago made his national team debut in 2007 and won gold at the 2008 Olympics.