John Terry or Rio Ferdinand? Rio or Terry?
This was, is and has been the question set before Roy Hodgson since he took over the England national team on the first of May.
That much (along with Hodgson's choice) was made abundantly clearer on Sunday when he chose Martin Kelly, instead of Ferdy, to replace Gary Cahill after the Chelsea defender fractured his jaw in a collision with goalkeeper Joe Hart during a 1-0 win over Belgium in a friendly.
That's right. Hodgson chose a 22-year-old with one cap under his belt over a 33-year-old with 81 caps who still happens to be one of the best central defenders in the world.
And how, exactly, did Roy explain his choice? According to The Daily Mail, it was for "footballing reasons."
Apparently, Hodgson is as crafty a politician as NBA commissioner David Stern.
Ferdy was upset (understandably so):
What reasons?????!!!— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 3, 2012
Rio Ferdinand's representative Jamie Moralee accuses Hodgson of "a total lack of respect" (via @sistoney67)— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) June 3, 2012
Ferdinand's agent Moralee to Press Assoc: "Lampard, Terry, Barry, Gerrard; all ageing but they go to the tournament. Why is Rio different?"— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) June 3, 2012
But Ferdy's rejection would appear to have little to do with age or "footballing." it doesn't take a super sleuth to figure out the real reason, either.
Because he's still on the squad, and his name is John Terry.
That incident didn't exactly engender any good will between Terry and Rio, Anton's brother. Rather, it precipitated silly debates over whether or not Terry and the Ferdinands should take time aside for handshakes and other meaningless ceremony.
In any case, Hodgson was never (realistically) going to have Terry and Ferdy on the same squad. They may be two of the best central defenders in England, but the last thing the Three Lions needed was another cause for drama.
As if losing Wayne Rooney for the first the first two matches on account of a stupid stomp weren't bad enough already.
With so little time to prepare a squad for Poland and the Ukraine, Hodgson had no choice but to make a choice.
But by trying to avoid drama, Roy may have unintentionally incited a whole new wave of it, with players potentially picking sides amongst themselves.
Not that England were at all favored to win Euro 2012 before all of this Terry-Ferdy business broke out. The field is already stacked with the likes of Italy, Germany, Holland, Portugal, fast-improving France, Sweden and defending-champion Spain.
Ferdy's presence wouldn't have changed that or made England that much more likely to make noise on the second-grandest stage in international football.
Hodgson can only hope that slotting Terry on the squad, instead of Ferdinand, was worth all the fuss.