LONDON (AFP) - It is a mystery that has baffled a succession of England managers: Why can't the country's two greatest midfielders play together?
Chelsea star Frank Lampard and Liverpool talisman Steven Gerrard are regarded as two of the best players in the world, thanks to their heroics in the Champions League and Premier League.
But when they pull on an England shirt the pair often become a pale shadow of the dominant figures who inspire their clubs.
The pair have racked up 132 caps between them over nine years and yet an embarrassed Lampard looked stumped on Tuesday when asked to name a competitive match in which they played well together.
In fact, in perhaps his most honest assessment yet of a conundrum that has dogged not only Fabio Capello's predecessor Steve McClaren but also Sven Goran Eriksson before that, the Chelsea man admits there is something seriously wrong.
"If we are both honest - and Stevie is a very honest man in the way he speaks about things - we both haven't played as well for England as we have for our clubs, particularly over the last two seasons. And that's the case whether we've played together or separately," he said at England's hotel ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belarus.
"I think if we had done we probably would have qualified for the Euros. It's not being big-headed saying that but from what we've done for our clubs and the way we play I'd like to think we could have qualified.
"We are both big enough and quite humble but as individuals we would both say that. It's something to work on and for the manager to decide the best way forward."
The issue is particularly relevant this week because England are still bathing in the glory of a 4-1 victory in Croatia when Lampard was outstanding but Gerrard was missing through injury.
Now, however, the Liverpool man is fit and back in the squad for Saturday's game against Kazakhstan at Wembley - and Capello must decide whether to stick with a winning team or achieve what his predecessors failed to do and find a formation in which both Gerrard and Lampard can flourish.
"We have to try and make it work if we're asked to play together," Lampard said. "Maybe we're in a better environment for it to improve now. We train hard with England now.
"I'm not saying we didn't train hard before but there is a lot more emphasis on the tactical work under Fabio Capello.
"Maybe it is a matter of time, although let's hope it's not too long because we are not getting any younger!
"I'd like to think it can work. I don't think we are stupid players and I don't think we are egotistical. People might think that from the outside sometimes but it's certainly not the truth.
"We both care passionately about playing for our country and we both want to play well for our country.
"It's something that really should work and it's up to the players, ultimately. The manager will make the decision as to who plays and how we play but then it's up to the players to take responsibility after that."
It seems unthinkable that Lampard could be dropped from Capello's England side this weekend after playing so well against Croatia in Zagreb and he hopes to finally win over the fans who have occasionally booed him in the past at Wembley.
"The thing about the fans-player relationship is that fans react to how the players are playing," he said. "With the Croatia game we showed a work ethic and a team ethic and a lot of people responded to it.
"We don't want to get carried away with ourselves but when fans see that and hopefully see it at Wembley on Saturday you get a different response out there.
"I'm big enough to say that for the last couple of years I haven't done as well as I should have done for England and after Croatia this is a start for me to kick on again and show the sort of form I feel I can."
If Lampard is true to his word then Capello may be halfway to solving a riddle that has baffled football's brightest brains for many years.
|Pochettino in the market for a striker|
|Beware of Leverkusen, says Kiessling|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Rimando, Plata stand tall for RSL|
|Jardim: Monaco worked on defending lead|
|Deila uninterested in pitch excuses against Qarabag|
|City won´t make top four, says James|
|Clyne eyes Premier League title with Liverpool|
|Dos Santos key to Galaxy´s bid for continental dominance|
|Brazil to play Costa Rica in New Jersey|
|Ajax loss ´sad for Dutch football´ - De Boer|
|United target Bale happy at Real|
|Guardiola furious but Mihajlovic defends De Jong: ´Football isn´t dancing´|
|Champions League top priority at PSG - Di Maria|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Ajax crash out after home defeat|
|Blackpool handed suspended deduction|
|Bayern Munich 3 Milan 0: Guardiola and De Jong lock horns in tunnel|
|Akpom, Ojo and Solanke on the move|
|McClaren: No Newcastle bid for Austin|
|Real Madrid 2 Tottenham 0: Bale on target against former club|
|Mangala vows to improve on debut campaign|
|Tomlin completes Bournemouth switch|
|Astra v West Ham: Page hungry for first-team action|
|Di Maria arrives in Qatar for PSG medical|
|Vitesse v Southampton: Caulker prepared to wait for his chance|
|UEFA rejects Fenerbahce´s Fred appeal|
|Watford show support for assaulted fan as police charge six|
|Ibrahimovic to miss PSG opener|
|Klopp suited to Bayern job - Watzke|
|Eredivisie season-opener postponed due to police strike|
|Dortmund v Wolfsberger: Tuchel set for home bow|
|Griezmann at the double in Atletico win|
|Japan v South Korea: Halilhodzic calls for ´pride´|
|Mourinho enjoying improved relationship with Abramovich|
|Gradel agrees Bournemouth return|
|Inter switch an ´easy decision´ for Miranda|
|Bojan eyes early comeback|
|Vitesse hopeful over Solanke loan deal|
|Pedro will decide his own future - Luis Enrique|
|Iniesta handed Barcelona armband|
|Kukesi punished after Europa League abandonment|
|Leno hints at Leverkusen exit|
|Benitez explains Ronaldo absence|
|Pochettino backs Kane to be among world´s best|
|Messi not ruled out of Mexico friendly - Martino|
|China v North Korea: Kim´s side look for another win|
|River Plate v Tigres UANL: Copa Libertadores final evenly poised|
|Real target Ceballos focused on Betis - Mel|
|Torres: I´d give my life to win La Liga with Atletico|
|Platini can lead FIFA change - Fernandez|
|Mel: Betis won´t be signing Osvaldo|
|Ferrero defends Samp boss Zenga|
|Pochettino expects Spurs improvement|
|Bale ideal for United - Robson|
|Ferdinand: Di Maria will regret United failure|
|Benitez pleased with goalkeepers as De Gea transfer saga continues|
|Guardiola tips fit Schweinsteiger to shine|
|Confident Oxlade-Chamberlain hits back at Keane|
|Ferdinand: Stones would be ´a lunatic´ to join Chelsea|
|Qarabag v Celtic: Gordon wants positivity from Scottish champions|
|Higuain rejects extension from Napoli|
|Zamora returns to Brighton|
|West Ham can cope without Valencia - Gold|
|Wickham loses on Palace debut|
|Guardiola: No problem with Matthaus and Effenberg comments|
|Cartabia excited by Deportivo loan|
|Lyon confirm Rafael deal|
|Hysaj agrees deal to follow Sarri to Napoli|
|Rafael says his goodbyes to Manchester United|
|Dos Santos ready to get going with Galaxy|
|Pochettino rejects Soldado exit talk|
|Metatarsal misery for Mulumbu|
|Benitez: Benzema and Bale going nowhere|
|Mihajlovic: Ibrahimovic would make Milan title contenders|
|Hughes not taking any risks with Bojan|
|Guardiola relishing Audi Cup test|
|Di Maria ´taking a step up´ - Silva|
|Leicester bring in defender Benalouane|
|Deulofeu doubtful for Premier League opener|
|West Ham striker Valencia out for three months|
|UEFA: Qarabag-Celtic to go ahead|
|Palace seal Wickham swoop|
|Ronaldo and Benzema to miss Audi Cup|
|Marotta: Juventus could lose Pogba|
|Kante completes Leicester switch|
|Khedira ruled out for two months|
|FA accepts Mourinho criticism of Wembley surface|
|Robben rubbishes injury talk|
|Marchisio expects Milan title challenge|
|Rafael set for Lyon move|
|Celtic ´seeking reassurances´ over Qarabag pitch|
|Wenger beating Mourinho does not affect Chelsea - Zouma|
|Rooney moved by Everton welcome|
|Mancini not worried by lack of Inter goals|
|Coloccini wants to finish career at Newcastle - McClaren|
|Ramsey: Pressure to win trophies is nothing new|
|Terry: Wembley defeat could be a ´blessing in disguise´|
|Blatter not running for IOC re-election|
|Bendtner: Wolfsburg can challenge Bayern for Bundesliga honours|
|Liverpool relishing Britannia return, says Henderson|
|Everton big enough to keep Stones - Martinez|
|MLS Review: Fire stun Dallas as goals dry up|
|New Atletico signings excite Raul Garcia|
|Cahill expects Arsenal title challenge|
|Jovetic happy with Inter debut|
|Luis Enrique: Barca defence must improve|
|Yanev calls for calm after ugly scenes in friendly|
|Coppa Italia Review: Cittadella romp to victory, Brescia rely on penalties|