Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender, is becoming an increasing worry for manager Sir Alex Ferguson as the club bids to claim a fourth successive Premier League crown.
And Ferguson's fears will no doubt be shared by England as Fabio Capello shapes up his squad before the World Cup finals next summer in South Africa.
Ferdinand, 30, was an unused substitute in Manchester United's 1-0 win over Wolves in the Carling Cup on Wednesday night, but of more concern is the England defender's long term back injury, which caused him to miss the first four games of the season.
His lack of first-team football this season was perhaps to blame for his mistake in the Manchester derby at the weekend, which allowed City striker Craig Bellamy to equalise before Michael Owen’s injury time strike spared the defender's blushes.
Ferdinand missed United's win against Besiktas before the Manchester derby and Ferguson is concerned that the club's key figurehead has started only two successive league games twice since April.
Meanwhile off the pitch Ferdinand is hoping to transfer his talent to the kitchen as a silent partner in a new restaurant venture.
Called Rosso, Italian for red, the eatery will be located in the centre of Manchester.