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.
|Wenger still gunning for top four spot with Arsenal|
|AFC Champions League Review: Kanazaki braces inspires Kashima|
|Ospina to get Wembley nod as Wenger waits on Ramsey|
|Pogba not struggling at United, claims Deschamps|
|Escape Messi´s shadow? Change sport! - Henry´s advice to Neymar|
|Horsing around: Muller takes tips from equine companion|
|Ronaldo jets off for a break as Madrid head to Leganes|
|Mistake to let Kroos leave Bayern for Madrid - Sammer|
|Spalletti tips Ancelotti for Italy job|
|Mendy on course for World Cup, says Deschamps|
|Man Utd on dismal knockout run, Roma have Shakhtar curse - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Azpilicueta hoping for greater fortune at Camp Nou|
|Out of nothing he can score goals – Heynckes hails Muller|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Giovinco inspires Toronto, Tigres held|
|Ranieri: I´ll quit Nantes if offered Italy job|
|Barcelona are great even without Neymar – Willian|
|Conte wants to see out Chelsea contract but has bags packed|
|Messi goal will give Barcelona more space at Camp Nou – Suarez|
|Conte defends ´incredible´ Christensen after Barcelona error|
|Bayern taking nothing for granted after 5-0 demolition – Heynckes|
|Valverde: Barcelona away goal not definitive for progression|
|Muller & Robben bemoan poor first half despite Bayern rout|
|Chelsea close to a perfect game against Barcelona - Conte|
|Defending for 90 minutes at Barcelona a ´suicide mission´ - Fabregas|
|Championship Review: Villa miss chance to move into promotion places|
|Messi ends his Chelsea hoodoo|
|Chelsea 1 Barcelona 1: Messi breaks Blues hoodoo to leave tie in the balance|
|Bayern Munich 5 Besiktas 0: Two-goal Muller inspires emphatic win after Vida red|
|De Vrij confirms intention to leave Lazio on free transfer|
|Sanchez move down to Champions League frustration at Arsenal - Mourinho|
|Mourinho suggests Pogba is fit to face Sevilla|
|AFC Champions League Review: Hulk & Oscar lead Shanghai, Jeonbuk Motors hit six|
|Cech expects Ospina to start for Arsenal in EFL Cup final|
|Gueye signs new Everton deal until 2022|
|FA charges Man City and Wigan for failing to control players|
|Aguero faces no action over Wigan fan incident|
|Las Palmas get green light to sign Viera replacement amid Nasri talk|
|FA issues West Ham with anti-doping charge|
|Florenzi a doubt to face Shakhtar, confirms Roma´s Di Francesco|
|Maybe we ´lock him up or tie him up´ – Montella ponders how to stop Sanchez|
|Pogba and Ibrahimovic train with Man Utd ahead of Sevilla tie|
|Zidane hints at resting Ronaldo for Real Madrid´s trip to Leganes|
|Modric adds to Real Madrid injury worries|
|Wolfsburg turn to Labbadia in fight for Bundesliga survival|
|Wigan to investigate pitch invasion after win over Manchester City|
|Drogba ´couldn´t be more proud´ as son signs for Guingamp|
|Stones making no excuses for shock Wigan defeat|
|Bellugi scathing of Inter form and transfer policy|
|Rakitic: I´ve not seen Messi in the gym this often|
|Besiktas face Bayern test, Messi seeks to end drought - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Sevilla v Manchester United: Montella and Mourinho unified in pursuit of identity|
|Jose Morais: The Mourinho acolyte bringing Barcelona to Barnsley|
|Rakitic: More to Chelsea than just Hazard|
|Klopp tactics behind my form – Salah|
|Young: Man United can win Champions League|
|Messi is best but ´not invincible´, says Pedro|
|It´s a red card – Guardiola accepts Delph sending off amid City´s Wigan woe|
|Aguero lashes out at fan as tempers flare after Wigan stun Man City|
|Grigg revels in dousing Manchester City´s fire|
|Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester City 0: Grigg ends Guardiola´s quadruple dream|
|Messi the best but don´t forget Suarez, says Chelsea boss Conte|
|I need a great game – Hazard aiming for Messi heights|
|AFC Champions League Review: El-Arabi´s brace seals Al Wahda´s fate|
|Barcelona boss Valverde tells Chelsea: History counts|
|Schmidt departs as Wolfsburg face relegation fight|
|Madrid, Barca & PSG are Champions League favourites, says Heynckes|
|Former football coach Bennell sentenced to 31 years|
|Hummels wary of ´top European team´ as Bayern prepare for Besiktas|
|WATCH: ´Crazy´ Evra drives to West Ham training in London cab|
|Barca clash a chance for Chelsea ´to do things right´, proclaims Rudiger|
|Lucas claims Tottenham can win Champions League|
|Barcelona tie will not decide Conte´s Chelsea future, says Deco|
|Lewandowski won´t be distracted by Real Madrid rumours|
|Man Utd must not underestimate Sevilla - Navas|
|Iniesta will not be made welcome at Stamford Bridge, warns Azpilicueta|
|Ballack sees ´a big difference´ between Bundesliga and Premier League|
|Betis boss would have preferred to face Madrid´s BBC|
|Chelsea v Barcelona: Messi´s blues against the Blues|
|James leaving Madrid was the best thing, says father|
|He´s looking good – Zidane thrilled with Ronaldo|
|It needs to take 30 seconds – Matic wants quicker VAR|
|Gattuso: My job is to be the players´ nightmare until season´s end|
|I wasn´t good enough – Guardiola reveals Wigan rejection|
|Brazilian derby between Vitoria and Bahia abandoned after red-card frenzy|
|It was crazy, but I like that - Zidane revels in eight-goal Betis thriller|