Gareth Southgate has refused to definitively confirm that Harry Maguire’s spot in his England set-up is secure and not under any threat.
In an interview on talkSPORT, Southgate admitted that he can’t guarantee call-ups for any player, including Maguire, who is currently fighting for his future at Manchester United.
The defender tops a list of stars Erik ten Hag is open to selling if the right offer arrives. Already, United turned down an opening bid from West Ham for Maguire.
David Moyes’s side are still keen on the former Red Devils skipper and are contemplating tabling a second proposal to land him.
Maguire was of course officially stripped of the captaincy by Ten Hag, who handed the armband to Bruno Fernandes.
Amidst all this uncertainty, Southgate, who has publicly backed Maguire in the past, was asked where the 30-year-old stands in his thinking ahead of next summer’s Euros.
The Three Lions manager said, “We’re not in a world where we’re cuddling. We’re in the tough world of professional football.
“He’s got two World Cup winners in the team ahead of him. [Raphael] Varane and [Lisandro] Martinez are top level players, when you’re at the big clubs you’re always going to be challenged, they’re going to sign players every summer, you’ve got to compete for your position and you’ve got to take that battle on.
“If you’re Manchester United you want good backup as well, you’re going to get injuries, they’ve got Champions League football as well as trying to push for the Premier League.
“I’m sure they will be comfortable about Harry staying as back-up or being in the team, however that fight ends up.”
Southgate explained that Maguire has a decision to make in the coming weeks – stay at Old Trafford and accept a secondary role, or leave and become a regular starter elsewhere.
The 52-year-old insisted that every footballer’s ambition is to play and be fulfilled in their job.
When pressed directly about whether Maguire will get minutes for England further down the road, Southgate was evasive and mentioned that such a decision will be made after careful consideration of how other players have been performing.
He told talkSPORT, “I can never guarantee a player we’re going to pick them. It’s [Maguire and John Stones] a partnership that’s worked brilliantly for us, so we recognise that, but there’s always new challenges coming through.”
“There are some good young centre backs coming through who are slowly picking up experience and that is going to be the challenge going forward.”
The onus is now on Maguire to choose the right route forward. It’s an open secret that he values playing for the national team as it has often proved to be a safe haven from his troubles at United.
For the good of his club career and certainly his place with England, it might ultimately be better for him to leave United and seek a fresh challenge.