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Sterling misses out again as England recall Watkins, Bowen

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Gareth Southgate named a 26-man squad on Thursday for this month’s friendly against Australia and a Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy, both of which take place at Wembley.

Watkins replaces Newcastle United’s Callum Wilson after a fine start to the season with Aston Villa — netting seven times in 11 games including a hat trick against Brighton last weekend — while Bowen has five goals in seven matches for West Ham United and takes up a spot vacated by injured Crystal Palace winger Eberechi Eze.

Southgate had spoken to Sterling prior to last month’s games against Ukraine and Scotland to explain, saying the Chelsea winger was disappointed to have been overlooked.

There were no conversations this time with Southgate opting for Bowen instead.

“We spoke before the last squad,” Southgate told a news conference when asked about Sterling. “We’ve been happy with the wide players and the performances in the last four games in particular, and the two in March.

“The team are playing really well so clearly there is some stability there. We have added Jarrod Bowen in those wide areas. He’s playing really well and with the Australia game there is an opportunity to learn some different things as well.”

Southgate revealed that Wilson’s call-up was placed in doubt by questions over his fitness, influencing his decision to select Watkins, who has scored two England goals in seven appearances, the last of which came against Cote d’Ivoire in March 2022.

“Callum is carrying an injury, we’re not certain he’d be available,” Southgate said. “Ollie has started the season well, he has hit a bit of scoring form in the last couple of weeks.

“You have to be careful with that, you can’t just go on recency bias when you are looking at selection but he is in good form.

“He is coming in on a high. We know his character, we know his personality. He’s a good guy around the group. He’s playing for a team that is really well coached and the team are in a good moment.”

Bukayo Saka has also been included despite suffering a muscular injury in Arsenal’s Champions League defeat at Lens on Tuesday.

Arsenal are awaiting results of various tests before determining his availability for Sunday’s Premier League clash with Manchester City.

“He is still being assessed,” said Southgate of Saka. “Obviously they’ve got a big game this weekend and then there’s another seven days before we play Australia and 10 days before we play Italy so everybody will monitor everything as we go forward.”

City defender John Stones has also been recalled following a thigh problem.

Southgate also voiced his disapproval of VAR, citing the 2019 Nations League semifinal when Jesse Lingard had a goal ruled out on review for offside — a moment which would have put England 2-1 up against Netherlands with less than 10 minutes to play. They lost the game in extra-time.

It was the first time VAR had been used in a national team competition run by UEFA.

“You say I was at the forefront of it, I wasn’t for it,” Southgate added. “My first experience of it, I’m still not sure if the Jesse Lingard goal that knocked us out of the semi-final was legit or not.

“I don’t like it. I think we should just accept referees’ decisions but I also know we are unlikely to go back to a world where we don’t have technology as part of that decision-making process.

“It was never going to resolve every issue. I don’t think there is any solution that will achieve that.”

England squad:

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders: Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal)

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United) Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)

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 Lamine Yamal gets new jersey number at Barcelona

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Hours after reports emerged regarding Lamine Yamal’s new shirt number at Barcelona, the club have officially confirmed that the teenage sensation will wear the No. 19 jersey next season.

The 17-year-old wonderkid wore No. 27 last season as he was still with a youth contract at the club.

But earlier this month, Barça confirmed his official registration as a first-team member with La Liga, which warranted a new squad number for the youngster.

There were speculations that Yamal could wear the No. 10 shirt but he has opted against it out of respect for Ansu Fati, who is back at Barça after a loan stint.

There was talk of him taking the No. 17 shirt vacated after Marcos Alonso’s exit, but Yamal has opted for No. 19 – a shirt that a certain Lionel Messi also wore in the early stages of his career at Barcelona.

Vitor Roque wore it briefly last season after arriving in January. Prior to that, players like Franck Kessie, Ferran Torres, Sergio Aguero, and Martin Braithwaite donned the No. 19 kit.

Yamal wore No. 19 with the Spanish national team as they won the UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany last week and will now wear it with the club as well.

With Yamal now taking over the No. 19 kit, Roque will have to change his shirt number, provided that he stays amid rumours of a departure.

 

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Luka Modric, 38, signs new Real Madrid contract

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Real Madrid extended Luka Modric’s contract on Wednesday, bringing the Croatia midfielder back for a 13th season with the club.

Madrid said it and Modric agreed to extend the player’s contract until June 2025.

One of Madrid’s captains, Modric didn’t play as often as a starter this season but is expected to have a greater role in Carlo Ancelotti’s midfield after the retirement of Toni Kroos.

He has won 26 titles with Madrid, the most in club history along with defender Nacho Fernández. Among those are six Champions Leagues and four Spanish leagues.

“Modric arrived at Real Madrid in 2012, and in his 12 seasons representing our shirt he has become a Real Madrid and world football legend,” Madrid said.

Modric won won the Ballon d’Or, the FIFA Player of the Year Award and was named UEFA Player of the Year in 2018, when he led Croatia to a runner-up finish at the World Cup.

Modric has made 178 appearances with Croatia and is the nation’s all-time record-holder for international caps. He has made 534 appearances for Madrid, having scored 39 goals.

 

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Inside Gareth Southgate’s decision to quit as England boss after Euro 2024 nightmare

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Albeit briefly, there was a theory that Gareth Southgate might stay on after all.‌ Let’s not forget this was the manager who had led England

Albeit briefly, there was a theory that Gareth Southgate might stay on after all.

‌Let’s not forget this was the manager who had led England to their first ever major final on foreign soil and the Football Association were desperate for him to remain in charge. And then came the fall-out. You would have to have been marooned on Mars to have avoided it.

The anger, bile and disappointment in the wake of England’s defeat in the Euros final. There was no way back. Southgate had insisted he was going to talk things through with his family on Monday night as he was in no mood to make a snap decision.

By 11am on Tuesday, the farewell statements were issued. Never mind that Southgate, in his eight years in charge, had gone to the latter stages of more tournaments than Sir Bobby Robson, Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle combined.

‌Or that Southgate had won nine knockout games during his tenure when England had won a grand total of seven in their previous years. England expects. And that is why they call it the Impossible Job.

No manager since Sir Alf Ramsey has come closer to ending 58 years of hurt than Southgate. England’s men have won just one major trophy – the 1966 World Cup at Wembley – and yet they were expected to play Spain off the park, win it in style and then lift the World Cup in two years’ time.

Instead, Southgate was accused of being over cautious, restricting world class talents like Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and Phil Foden and holding England back. Holding them back? They have quickly forgotten the failures of the Golden Generation when Sven Goran Eriksson could not get past the quarter final stage with Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.

‌The players who flopped in major tournaments in the 1970s, 80s and 90s are the same ones who are now on TV slamming Southgate. This has been a golden era for England under Southgate. But, in reality, Southgate should have gone after Qatar. That was in his head.

It turned sour after Hungary in the Nations League at Molineux. He nearly announced in the autumn of 2022 he was going after the World Cup – and changed his mind. He then did soul searching after Qatar, thought about going and then decided to stay.

‌Looking at his body language in Germany, he was every bit as tired and exhausted as some of his players in the Euros. Just look at the season Declan Rice has had. Was he at his best? Of course not. He was shattered.

‌The same goes for Southgate who had reached the end of his tether. Going into the tournament, those around the camp felt he was going come what may. Then the conversation was that if he won it, he might yet stay on and oversee the World Cup.

That proved to be hypothetical in the end. But I think he would have quit even if they had won the Euros. Or, put another way, especially if they had won the Euros. What a chance to say: thanks, we did it – and now two fingers up to you lot!

The England job is so tough and unforgiving. Even in his departure, Southgate showed class by singling out the England fans – some of them have pilloried him, others have chucked beer cups and yet, ultimately, we are all them. Including Southgate.

‌Southgate said in his statement : “We have the best fans in the world, and their support has meant the world to me. I’m an England fan and I always will be. I look forward to watching and celebrating as the players go on to create more special memories and to connect and inspire the nation as we know they can.”

‌Southgate has done a remarkable job in his 102 games in charge. Summed up in his statement as he bid his farewells.‌ He added: “I have had the privilege of leading a large group of players in 102 games.

“Every one of them has been proud to wear the Three Lions on their shirts, and they have been a credit to their country in so many ways. The squad we took to Germany is full of exciting young talent and they can win the trophy we all dream of.

‌“I am so proud of them, and I hope we get behind the players and the team at St. George’s Park and The FA who strive every day to improve English football, and understand the power football has to drive positive change.”

-Mirror Football

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