Wigan manager Steve Bruce believes Emile Heskey may risk missing out on playing for England at the next World Cup if he moves to one of the top clubs in the Premier League.
Heskey has admitted he would be tempted by a return to his former club Liverpool next summer, when his contract at Wigan is due to expire.
The 30-year-old has returned to favour in the England set-up under Fabio Capello, and is developing a strong partnership with Wayne Rooney.
But Bruce, who hopes Heskey will agree to a contract extension with the Latics, suspects Heskey would not play as many matches and have the same opportunities to impress Capello if he chooses to move on at the end of this season.
Bruce said: “If he goes to Liverpool or wherever, is he going to play week-in, week-out?
“The big thing Emile will have on his mind is to be in condition in 18 months to go to the World Cup. Why not stay here and do that?”
Bruce added: “I don’t think you can be at your best if you are not playing every week. That is the conversation I will be having with him. I haven’t given up hope of keeping him here and neither has the chairman.”
Heskey was a £5.5million signing by Wigan in 2006, joining from relegated Birmingham who had tempted him away from Liverpool two years earlier.
Bruce said: “When you leave Liverpool, a lot of players go downwards. Emile has done the opposite.
“He doesn’t owe this club a penny. Whatever the figure was that Wigan paid for him, he has paid it back two or three times over with his performances.”
Heskey, who won his 50th England cap in Wednesday’s win against Belarus, played over 100 games in his four-year spell at Liverpool under Gerard Houllier.
Yesterday he confirmed he would not rule out a second spell at Anfield.
“When you are performing well speculation will come around,” Heskey told BBC Radio Five Live.
“A move to Liverpool would be lovely. Who knows what will happen. Let’s see how it goes.”