England manager Gareth Southgate says he would be a “bloody hypocrite” if he told players to focus only on the national team and not their club futures at the European Championship.
While the tournament goes on in June and July, there is likely to be speculation about the future of some of his big stars - including captain Harry Kane, who will reportedly seek a move away from Tottenham if they do not qualify for the Champions League.
Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho and West Ham midfielder Declan Rice are also repeatedly discussed as potential targets for other clubs.
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But Southgate trusts his players to make sure it does not detract from their bid to win a first major finals since 1966.
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“There’s what everybody would like and there’s a reality that whatever we say there will always be conversations,” he told reporters.
I’d be a bloody hypocrite because I put a transfer request in (at Aston Villa) on the eve of Euro 2000. I know I’m a hypocrite in a lot of areas, but I’ve got to make sure I don’t get pulled on that.
“But I was just as determined to play well. It wasn’t a distraction for me. Talks will go on in the background and I don’t imagine any clubs or players would want agents in during that period. If you speak to players, they want those things to be going on in the background.
“I’m practical about those things, I know there’s a reality, the players are mature enough to deal with that. They’ll be fully focused on England.”
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In a blow to James Maddison, Southgate also hinted that he will not tolerate ill discipline during the tournament. The midfielder was reportedly one of three Leicester players, along with Ayoze Perez and Hamza Choudhury, who were dropped from the 3-2 Premier League defeat at West Ham for breaking the club’s coronavirus regulations.
“Leicester have dealt with the situation brilliantly and they’ve got a massive game on Sunday [the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton], so I don’t think I should talk about specifics,” Southgate said.
We’ve had issues ourselves in the autumn. That’s always very difficult for coaches. I compare that with March where we came in with no dramas. It’s a much better environment to prepare for football. We were only having to make football decisions.
“When we went into the tournament in Russia we had minimal distractions. That’s something I talked to the players about after the autumn. In the autumn discipline off the pitch and on the pitch created the biggest issues for us and meant we didn’t get to the semi-finals of the Nations League.”
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