Raheem Sterling hasn’t played for England since the Qatar World Cup (Photo: Getty)
John Barnes says it is ‘not an issue’ that Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling was yet again left out of the England squad by Gareth Southgate.
Sterling has not played for his country since the 2022 World Cup despite recently showing some impressive form for his club.
The forward has five goals and two assists in 14 games so far this season, most recently finding the back of the net in the epic 4-4 draw against former club Manchester City.
Yet that’s not been enough for Southgate, and while the Three Lions boss says ‘the door is 100 per cent open’ for his return, Sterling, once an ever-present in the squad, now faces a uphill struggle to make it to next summer’s Euro 2024.
Even after several players pulled out of the squad to face Malta and North Macedonia this week, Sterling was not called on, with uncapped Blues teammate Cole Palmer getting the nod instead.
The decision to snub the 28-year-old has been criticised and while Barnes admits he would have picked the player, he believes Southgate’s call was justified.
Sterling has played for England 55 times under Gareth Southgate (Photo: Getty)
‘People are looking at the last two or three matches and saying he should be called up but if you look at the amount of talent available to Gareth Southgate it’s a tough situation to be in.
‘I’ll always have Raheem in the England squad but I don’t think it’s an issue of Raheem not being in the squad. Raheem may warrant being in the squad based on recent form but the squad was picked before the City game so he will be back in the squad at some point.’
As Barnes mentions, England have plenty of options in the wide areas including Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Jarrod Bowen.
And he suggests that perhaps Sterling’s snub is because he’s less of a wildcard option for Englandthan his compatriots,’ adding: ‘Gareth Southgate picks the team and we trust Gareth Southgate.
‘Fans will always have an opinion on who should and shouldn’t be in the squad. I respect and trust what Gareth says and does. He knows how he wants his team to play.
‘He may feel that what Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford have to offer may differ to what Raheem offers. Jack hasn’t been playing all the time, which is somewhat similar to Harry Maguire at [Manchester] United.
‘Jack may be in the squad but may not be in the England starting 11 so therefore he’s an option off the bench. Whilst if you have Raheem in the squad you can’t have him on the bench. You’d want him on the team.’
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