Gary Neville has claimed England would not have won the 2010 World Cup even if his former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had been in charge.
England went out at the second-round stage last summer, with Neville citing a lack of strength in depth and skill as reasons for their failures.
"Ferguson may have got more out of the squad," Neville told BBC Radio 5 live.
"But the reality is would we have beaten Spain in the last World Cup? No, because they were better than England."
Neville made his England debut in 1995 and is the country's most-capped right-back, having made 85 appearances in his 14 years as a player.
But the national side only once got beyond the quarter-finals of a major tournament in that time, reaching the semi-finals of Euro 96 - and that record has led the former United defender, who retired in February 2011, to call his international career a "wasted opportunity".
Speaking ahead of England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria on Friday, he told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek programme: "I loved playing for England but we've fallen short and I've contributed to that over the last 10 years as much as anyone.
"The analogy I use is if a man takes a woman out 85 times and then she's not your girlfriend at the end of it, you've wasted a lot of time.
"You measure success by achieving things. We got to the quarter-finals but that's falling short because we were not getting to European Championships and World Cup finals.
"Over the last 10 or 15 years, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Brazil have all been better than England.
"We need more players of higher quality who can keep the ball."
Neville, though, has high hopes for the future, with the likes of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling breaking into the England set-up.
"I see a different type of player coming through - a more intelligent type of player," he said. "Players who grew up in the 1970s and 80s watched a more straight up-and-down football.
"But since the likes of [Gianfranco] Zola, [Dennis] Bergkamp, [Eric] Cantona and [Cristiano] Ronaldo came in, players are looking at more technically skilled and cultured players and England will get the benefit.
"The likes of Wilshere and Cleverley will give England a better chance of winning the World Cup.
"You cannot win [major tournaments] without keeping possession of the ball - and I see players now who can keep the ball more."
You can hear the full interview on BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek programme on Sunday morning from 0830 BST.