Raheem Sterling has been left out of his 25-man England squad for the March international break due to fitness concerns, Gareth Southgate has revealed.
Sterling endured a difficult first season at new club Chelsea, struggling for form and extended playing time under Graham Potter. However, at international level, Sterling has always been one of the most consistent performers under Southgate, particularly in international tournaments where England have relied on his goalscoring output.
The England manager revealed at his team announcement press conference that Sterling’s exclusion is not for form but for fitness, after the Chelsea winger missed his side’s recent win over Leicester with a hamstring complaint. .
“Rahim is not fit. If he was, I would have picked him,” confirmed Southgate.
Southgate also discussed the inclusion of Ivan Toney and Kyle Walker. Toney is under investigation for an alleged breach of FA betting rules, while Walker is under police investigation for indecent exposure.
Of Toney, Southgate said: “He’s playing for his club and available for them. There’s been no trial or no decision so I don’t know on what basis we wouldn’t pick him.
“Evan has been consistent all season. He’s been playing really well. I love his presence in games. I saw him against Arsenal where he was brilliant and he deserves his chance.”
The Three Lions manager said there was no ‘definitive evidence’ that would have led to Walker being left out of the squad: “It is a complex situation and I have spoken to him at length at this stage.
“I have to be very careful not to be the moral judge of things. We want him with us and it’s the right thing to do to avoid that. When you’re an England international, your behavior is even more restricted. “
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Protector: Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Rhys James (Chelsea), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Mark Gehey (Crystal Palace), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben Chell Val (Chelsea), Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Declan Rice (West Ham United), Colin Phillips (Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Mason Mount (Chelsea), James Maddison (Leicester City)
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bokaio Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford)