Maguire can play "at the highest level", Southgate insists ahead of Ivory Coast clash

By Sports Desk March 28, 2022

England boss Gareth Southgate has reiterated that defender Harry Maguire has what it takes to play "at the highest level" despite the Manchester United man's poor club form.

Maguire was an unused substitute for the Three Lions in Saturday's 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland at Wembley, but could return to the team against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

Conor Coady, Ben White, and debutant Marc Guehi started as England played a back three in their comeback win over Switzerland, with Maguire earning criticism in recent weeks for his role in the Red Devils' underwhelming campaign.

Despite acknowledging that Maguire is going through a "difficult moment" with his club, Southgate reasserted his belief in the 29-year-old's quality.

With Maguire's club team-mates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho left out of the Three Lions party for the March internationals, Southgate also highlighted the increased depth England possess in the forward areas.

"In terms of selection, it's always a difficult conundrum, because we've got players who we know have performed well in an England shirt," Southgate said. "[But] there's got to be some level of scrutiny on how people are playing for their clubs. 

"Everybody has a view on who we should or shouldn't be picking, in the end we need the best players possible, playing at their best level, to have a chance of winning.

"He [Maguire] has got us to a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final, so there's no doubt that he's capable of playing at the very highest level. 

"The club [United] are in a difficult moment, and there could be any number of reasons for that. 

"That doesn't mean that players can be poor for a couple of years and still find their way in, [but] it also depends on competition for positions, we've left some forward players out who haven't been in good form, but there are experienced replacements for those players."

Meanwhile, Southgate would not reveal whether captain Harry Kane would start against Ivory Coast, praising the Tottenham star's attitude after he drew level with Bobby Charlton's tally of 49 goals for the Three Lions.

Kane is now joint-second in England's all-time goalscoring charts, just four goals shy of Wayne Rooney's record haul of 53 goals, but Southgate hinted that he could choose to look at other options against The Elephants.

"If he had his way he'd play 90 minutes of every fixture," the England boss added. "Which is a brilliant quality to have, because if you're the captain, and want to be at every camp, playing every minute of every game, that sets the tone for everything else.

"The fact is, we've got a good squad, we want to keep people involved and give people opportunities, we need to see certain things across the week, to see how people can play at this level.

"I'll let Ivory Coast find out [whether Kane will start] when we put the team sheet out!"

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