Owen Hargreaves has conceded that his England career is over.
The 31-year-old was once a major part of the Three Lions set-up, but the last four years have seen his international hopes dwindle because of his fitness and tendency to pick up major injuries.
Hargreaves played down any hopes of an England recall and stressed progressing youth through the ranks – such as the emergence of Arsenal Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – is more beneficial to the team.
He exclusively told Goal.com: “My situation has changed a little bit over the last four or five years, and it’s important in life to know we’re you’re at and be realistic.
“I’ve been privileged to have some wonderful moments with England and obviously everybody would love to keep playing for England but I think now is the opportunity for the younger generation.
“I’m happy to see a guy like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come into the equation, I think he’s a very talented player, and I think the future is for the younger guys.
“We integrate them, and then the team going forward grows rather than focusing on the people of the past.”
Under Roy Hodgson, the former Manchester City and Manchester United midfielder thinks that the squad have achieved an impressive balance throughout the starting line-up.
“I think he’s going to make the team difficult to beat,” he said.
“We’re fortunate in having such a good goalkeeper as Joe Hart, who plays well in every game regardless.
“There’s a good back four and strength in midfield as well, and I think it more about just finding the players that balance the team correctly because if we can get the balance right, we can be a threat, even if we’re not the best we’ve been over the last 10 years.
“We’re flying a little bit under the radar because we don’t have the dominant individuals we used to have, so people aren’t expecting as much but I think that can be a positive as well.”
Hargreaves remains non-committal on where his future lays after a season at the Etihad Stadium under Roberto Mancini, and insists he has to remain realistic on his situation.
“No, I’m just happy that I’m fit and healthy, and to have some time off,” he said when asked if he has any plans for joining another club.
“I’ve been privileged. People may focus on me being injured or whatever, but I’ve had the opportunity to win more than most people ever even get near. You have to be realistic and evaluate the situation for what it is.
“I’ll see going forward what I want to do, it’s the first time I haven’t had that clear direction, but that’s also not a bad thing.”
Hargreaves has spent his professional career exclusively at prestigious clubs, starting at German giants Bayern Munich before his spell at Old Trafford.
When asked if he would like to play a bit-part role at another top club, he responded: “I don’t mind that. In a way that might be the best decision for me, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“It has to be the best decision for the team and for myself. I’m not going to force anything though.”
Hargreaves admitted his lack of playing time lessened his celebrations at City’s title victory on the last day of the season, but said he is delighted for his former team-mates’ triumph.
He said: “You train every day, and that’s where most of the work is done every day. So it’s great to see the guys (achieve), it’s a wonderful group of players and staff.
“There are some really special people there, and I’m happy to see that they had a great season.
“Obviously I didn’t have the impact that I was hoping for, but for me I’ve been on sides where I’ve played a lot of games and I’m not a big celebrator anyway.
“I didn’t celebrate when we won the Champions League with United, so for me to play four games, you’ve not got much chance of me celebrating because it’s not about me, it’s about the others.”
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