Revealed: Italy legend's first pick for England squad - Chelsea man

Player omitted from Roy Hodgson's provisional England squad, at the expense of Everton and Southampton stars, would have been Italy legend's first pick.

A legend of club and international football due to five European Cup titles with AC Milan and the World Cup with Italy, Paolo Maldini, now 45, has expressed surprise at the omission of Chelsea and former Arsenal full back Ashley Cole, who was overlooked by England national team manager Roy Hodgson in favour of Everton defender Leighton Baines and Southampton wonderkid Luke Shaw.

"I have seen nothing to suggest he is still not one of the best in the world," said Maldini, as quoted by the Daily Mail, in reference to Cole, who has only sporadically been used by Blues boss Jose Mourinho, making 17 Premier League appearances.

At 33-years-old, there would be question marks over whether Cole could play twice in the space of four days in what would be a grueling World Cup fixture congestion from group stage to knockout, should the Three Lions roar their way into the latter stages.

"The coach must make his own decisions — but he would have been one of the first players I would have picked, not only for his big-game experience but for the way he performs in the big games. How many times have we seen him keep the best attacking players in the world quiet in the big games?

"It is important to have youth in the side, of course, but not to take the place of one of the players who is still maybe best in his position in the world."

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