Gareth Southgate has welcomed Raheem Sterling becoming a star player for England and hailed the forward's increasing influence on and off the pitch.

Sterling initially struggled to turn his club form for Manchester City into high-level performances for the Three Lions, regularly facing strong criticism over his performances.

He branded himself "The Hated One" in a post on social media while enduring a difficult time during England's unsuccessful Euro 2016 campaign.

Since then, however, Sterling has grown to play a key role for England with a stunning run of eight goals in his past eight appearances demonstrating his importance for Southgate's side.

Sterling equalised in Tuesday's 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo and created a further three goals, including providing assists for both of Jadon Sancho's maiden international goals.

The attacker has also become a social figurehead, drawing praise for speaking out over racism and going viral for his interactions with supporters, with manager Southgate delighted to have a front-row seat to Sterling's continued rise to superstardom.

"For me, it's lovely to see the shift in the public opinion of him," Southgate said of the 24-year-old.

"That's still a brave thing to decide that: 'Right, I'm going to own that space and I'm going to put my own views across'. But those views represent many as well, so I think he's aware of the power of his voice, but he also doesn't waste it.

"I think he was very forthright in his social media posts [about racism]. I think he raised everybody's awareness and made us all think, which was very mature and impressive. And, at the same time, he rose to the challenge with his club, with new signings coming in.

"You know, when you are at a club like that, to keep fighting off the quality of players that he has; and straight away with us, got the goals in Spain - first game after the World Cup for him, really. Croatia away, Spain. I think it was such a huge weight lifted for him, he almost jumped six foot in the stadium, didn't he? 

"So I think from that moment - because he did come home a bit sad after the World Cup, there's no hiding from that. He didn't deserve to feel that way, but that's as he was, so it's lovely to see the recognition he's getting and how much extra I think that's bringing out of him.

"If there are things that he thinks can be better with the mentality of the players or the way that we've set the week out, he'll thoughtfully put ideas across; he doesn't just sit and complain.

"But then you see his interaction with the players. I noticed, over the last 24 hours especially [prior to facing Kosovo], he spent a lot of time with Jadon, I think that was probably quite a comfort.

"He can pass things on that I can speak [about] as the coach, but there'll be more depth to that if your fellow winger who has been at the same club as you, and has been through what you’re going to go through can talk to you. I think that's far more powerful. You can't quantify what that will have meant for Jadon."

Asked how Sterling will have felt to have been made a scapegoat earlier in his international career, Southgate said: "Difficult for me to say. I can only imagine. Everyone wants to be liked, don't they?

"Everybody, players give their all. He's a player that has always given his all… You know how much it means to him, how much he wants to do well.

"So, I think it's for him to reflect on how he might have felt then and, for me, it's just lovely to see a young man establishing himself, at the real top table in the game."

Southgate indicated he also sees an England future for Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, who qualifies to play for Nigeria in addition to the Three Lions.

"Tammy is a young player that we’ve always liked, we know he'll score goals," he said. "We felt it was a bit early this time to call him up, but we really can see that he can offer us something moving forward.

"We gave him a cap back in November of 2017. For sure, we need to make certain that he feels that the opportunity is going to be there. I'm pretty sure he does, he knows us well enough."

Raheem Sterling acknowledges he cannot be compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo until he has performed at the highest level for a number of seasons, but that is his aim.

The Manchester City forward was in irrepressible form in England's 5-3 win against Kosovo on Tuesday, scoring an early equaliser and then laying on three assists in a stunning first-half display.

Sterling's performance continued an outstanding start to the new season, with eight goals to his name for club and country already.

The 24-year-old scored 35 times in the Premier League across the previous two campaigns, but he concedes he is still some way short of the standard set by all-time greats Messi and Ronaldo.

"The most remarkable thing about these players is not that they've been doing it for two or three seasons," said Sterling. "They've been doing it for pretty much their whole career, season after season.

"This is my third season at a high level, I would say, and I just have to keep continuing. I have full belief in myself.

"I have goals and they've been goals of mine since I was a child, and I'll keep thriving and keep learning and try to get all the way to the top, for sure."

Sterling had scored just twice for his country prior to visiting Spain last October but doubled his international tally with a brace in that away win and now has 10 goals in England colours.

"When I first put on the England shirt, I wasn't looking at my stats too much," he said. "It wasn't until I saw how bad they were I put extra pressure on myself to score.

"But I said to myself that once my first goal goes in, I know that the goals will come after that. That's all I was waiting for.

"That night in Spain when I scored two, from then I knew I'd kick on and keep scoring goals."

Gareth Southgate believes Raheem Sterling has been close to "unstoppable" after his dazzling display in England's entertaining 5-3 win over Kosovo in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Sterling scored and set up three others as England came from a goal down at St Mary's Stadium to preserve their 100 per cent record in Group A on Tuesday.

England conceded inside 34 seconds but Sterling restored parity before the Manchester City star teed up Harry Kane and providing the assists for Jadon Sancho's brace.

Sterling's performance came after he scored and supplied two assists for Kane in England's 4-0 rout of Bulgaria last week, and manager Southgate heaped praise on the in-form 24-year-old.

"Our attacking play from Raheem, Jadon and Harry was outstanding," Southgate said. "Raheem's two performances have been of the highest level. 

"I think he's been almost unstoppable, his awareness of where defenders were, his ability to ride challenges, his vision and desire to get in on goal, and unselfish play as well, so I couldn't speak highly enough of the way he played."

It was a memorable outing for Sancho in Southampton, where the Borussia Dortmund sensation scored his first England goals.

"Jadon – you know we were talking about the three on Saturday – Jadon's performance was at that level as well. He worked really hard for the team without the ball and showed the ability he has to go past people, to be calm in tight areas," Southgate said.

"So, that part of our game was absolutely outstanding. We continued that threat for most of the game."

While England made it four wins from four games to be three points clear atop Group A, the Three Lions were far from convincing defensively against Kosovo.

Errors saw England concede three goals to the visiting minnows and Southgate added: "It was bizarre. The outstanding features and the poor features are apparent to everybody, so we don't need to get the video out and go back through it.

"Poor individual mistakes, a poor start to the game. I like the way we showed the composure to recover from that initial mistake and our use of the ball throughout the first half was excellent, right the way through the team.

"The small period after half-time: ridiculous mistakes, poor decisions, lack of covering back. So, we made the game really uncomfortable for ourselves. There were obviously mistakes that were concerning. Whether it was the intensity of the game, whether it was the pressure, I don't know. We've got to reflect on that but they were such basic errors, really, that you have to learn from. We just made some crazy errors."

Gareth Southgate accepted England made poor defensive mistakes in Tuesday's thrilling 5-3 defeat of Kosovo and demanded his side improve.

Raheem Sterling shone with a goal and three assists as England came from behind in an entertaining clash in Southampton.

Jadon Sancho struck his first international goals, with Harry Kane also on target, although the usually impeccable Three Lions captain failed to convert a second-half penalty.

Kosovo, though, forced regular mistakes from the Nations League semi-finalists, including in the first minute when a Michael Keane lapse led to Valon Berisha's opener.

Berisha would later profit again after Declan Rice gave the ball away too easily, while a Harry Maguire challenge resulted in Vedat Muriqi scoring a spot-kick.

England ultimately had too much firepower thanks to Sterling and Sancho but Southgate was under no illusions about the work to do in defence.

"It had its moments! A bizarre game really," Southgate told ITV after England extended their 100 per cent record in Group A.

"There were obvious poor errors for goals but I'm really pleased with the composure we showed.

"We had devastating attacking play throughout and we used the ball well.

"The mistakes were obvious, the errors, we have to be better. The players don't need me to tell them that.

"The outstanding parts of our play were obvious, the errors were obvious."

England return to action next month with away trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Jadon Sancho dedicated his first England goals to his late grandmother after starring in a 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo.

England trailed in the first minute at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday, but Raheem Sterling shone as they hit back to lead 5-1 at the break.

Sterling provided two assists for Borussia Dortmund winger Sancho in quick succession, the teenager becoming the youngest player to score more than once in a game for England since Wayne Rooney in 2004.

"It was a good run from Raheem, he found me and I slotted it home," Sancho, 19, told ITV.

"It means a lot to me personally and for my family it is a special day.

"I dedicate the goals to my nan, who was a big fan of me but has sadly passed away."

 

 

Gareth Southgate's side responded well after a Michael Keane error allowed Valon Berisha to score the first of his two goals with just 34 seconds on the clock.

"It was a crazy game. I'm delighted to score my first goal for England," said Sancho.

"The opener was a bad mistake from us but it was a great comeback."

After the restart England conceded twice more and Sancho acknowledged there are defensive improvements needed despite a fourth Group A win out of four games.

"I think we started a bit slow [after half-time]," he added. "Next time we have to pick up on that and learn from it."

Raheem Sterling scored and recorded a trio of assists while Jadon Sancho hit his first England goals as Gareth Southgate's side came from behind to beat Kosovo 5-3 in Southampton. 

Kosovo led after 34 seconds of the Euro 2020 qualifier at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday, Valon Berisha giving the Three Lions a scare, but they roared back to lead 5-1 at half-time thanks to Sterling's inspirational display.

He levelled the scores with a header and set up Harry Kane to make it 2-1 before Mergim Vojvoda's own goal, Sterling then providing assists for Sancho's two strikes in an action-packed Group A clash.

England lost their focus after the interval with Berisha netting again and Vedat Muriqi converting a penalty - a feat Kane failed to match soon after - to make the final scoreline closer than Sterling's superb showing deserved.

Kosovo were gifted an early opener when Michael Keane's loose pass allowed Fidan Aliti to tee up Berisha for his second international goal since changing allegiance from Norway.

The hosts responded well and drew level in the eighth minute, Keane heading a right-wing Ross Barkley corner back across goal for a leaping Sterling to profit from close range.

Sterling then created England's second, brilliantly turning into space on halfway and feeding Kane for a powerful finish through the legs of Kosovo goalkeeper Arijanet Muric.

England opened up a four-goal advantage before the break. Vojvoda turned a low Sancho cross into his own net before the Borussia Dortmund winger opened his international account with a quickfire double.

Sloppy play allowed Kosovo to net first after the restart. Declan Rice lost the ball on halfway and Berisha curled home his second of the game, then Harry Maguire's clumsiness enabled Muriqi to reduce the deficit further from the spot.

England should have restored a three-goal cushion but captain Kane saw his penalty pushed away by Muric while the goalkeeper - on Manchester City's books - later deflected a Sterling shot on to the post.


What does it mean? England closing on qualification

Reaching the Euro 2020 finals always looked on the cards for England but they have made light work of their competition in Group A, scoring 19 goals already and winning all four of their games, although defensive weaknesses were exposed here. 

Kosovo are still occupying second spot in the group and have every chance of reaching their first international tournament given the impressive way they carried the fight against their lauded opponents.


Unplayable Sterling at top of his game

Kosovo's open tactics played into England's hands but Sterling made the most of the time and space he was routinely given in the opposition half. On current form, few players in the world are as dangerous as the City star, who it is easy to forget is only 24 years old.


Keane at risk of losing his place

Bernard Challandes' side pressed ferociously from the first whistle and it did not take them long to force an error from Everton defender Keane. With John Stones expected to be fit for England's next fixtures Keane will likely drop out of the team, partly due to his latest mistake.


What's next?

England have an away double-header against Czech Republic and Bulgaria next month, while October's international break sees Kosovo travel to Gibraltar and host Montenegro.

Robert Prosinecki will stay in charge of Bosnia-Herzegovina despite announcing his resignation after a 4-2 defeat away to Armenia.

Sunday's Euro 2020 qualifier loss in Yerevan left Prosinecki's side fourth in Group J with seven points from six fixtures.

Qualification for next year's finals therefore looks a tall task but Prosinecki has agreed to stay on regardless.

"Considering the objective situation and the current state of affairs, and taking into account the real circumstances and qualitative arguments, it was concluded that the executive board gives full support to selector Robert Prosinecki until the end of the Euro 2020 qualification cycle, as defined in the signed contract," said a statement released by the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday.

"With certainty, changing the coach at this point would not have a positive effect, and our chances of placement through the group stage are still possible, realistic and achievable."

Bosnia, who must finish in the top two to qualify, return to action next month with games against second-placed Finland and Greece, who are fifth.

Kosovo boss Bernard Challandes has dared his players to dream of producing an upset against England, who he labelled as the best team in the world.

World Cup 2018 semi-finalists England have won all three Euro 2020 qualifiers ahead of Tuesday's visit of Kosovo at St Mary's Stadium, scoring 14 goals and conceding one.

Kosovo also enter the match in good form thanks to an unbeaten 15-match run, but Challandes is fully aware of the size of the task facing his side in Southampton.

"We are Kosovo and we are here against one of the best teams in the world - in my opinion the best team in the world," he said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"I think it is in my philosophy that if we don't dream it is unnecessary to play such games, we should dream and do all that is possible to disturb England."

Kosovo were only accepted as a UEFA and FIFA member in 2016 and they have gone nearly two years since last tasting defeat.

Challandes' side have drawn two and won two of their Group F qualifiers and occupy second place, sitting one point adrift of England who have a game in hand to play.

"We are a young federation - never have we played against such an opponent," Challandes said on the eve of the top-of-the-table clash.

"For me as a coach it is not easy to have a good mix for the evaluation of this game.

"If I say, 'We come to win', I think a lot of people think that is pretentious. If I say, 'It is not possible to win against England', I must change my job.

"Never did we think after four games that we play for the first place here in England.

"It is clear for me it will be a very, very hard game but it is a possibility for our very young team to show what is a very, very high level."

England maintained their impressive goalscoring form in Saturday's 4-0 win over Bulgaria, captain Harry Kane netting a hat-trick and setting up Raheem Sterling for the other.

But Challandes insisted his side will not sit back and defend against the Group A pacesetters.

"Harry Kane and Sterling and [Marcus] Rashford and, and, and, and, and..." he said.

"For me it is a wonderful team but I have only this way in my head - I don't want to say to my team, 'Okay, we stay in our own half and defend, defend, defend'.

"I hope we can play and be an opponent, not a big opponent but and opponent with intensity."

Victory over Kosovo will see England take another huge step towards qualifying for next year's European Championship finals, where a number of games - including the semi-finals and final - will be staged at Wembley.

After lifting the Champions League with Liverpool in June, Three Lions midfielder Jordan Henderson is eyeing his first piece of silverware at international level on home soil.

"It would mean a lot, any trophy that I win, I will be over the moon," he told reporters. "That is all I ever want is to win, whether that's at Liverpool or England.

"It means so much to me to win trophies or win as a team. To win a trophy in the summer was massive and huge for me and my team, for England that is what we want to achieve.

"We want to win trophies and be as successful as we can be. Hopefully one day we can do that."

Scotland's bid for automatic qualification to Euro 2020 is all but over after they were outclassed by a Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Belgium, who ran out 4-0 victors at Hampden Park.

The Manchester City midfielder made goals for Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld in the first half before claiming a deserved one of his own late on as the Group I leaders ran riot against Steve Clarke's team.

Scotland are at least guaranteed a place in the play-offs in March after winning their Nations League group, but there is much work for new boss Clarke to do before then.

Belgium, meanwhile, lived up to their status as the number-one side in the FIFA rankings as they maintained their 100 per cent record in the group.

Clarke made four changes to the team beaten by Russia on Friday and his side began purposefully only to find themselves behind within nine minutes following a devastating demonstration of counter-attacking at its best from the visitors.

Dries Mertens set De Bruyne away down the left channel and he drove towards goal before picking out the onrushing Lukaku at the far post and, with time and space to compose himself, the Inter Milan forward made no mistake.

The outstanding De Bruyne once again was the provider in the 24th minute, bending in a superb cross which Vermaelen flicked home.

It was next the turn of another Belgium defender, Alderweireld, to make it three eight minutes later when he took advantage of slack marking to head De Bruyne's cross in off the underside of the crossbar, capping a disastrous first half for the home side.

It was still Roberto Martinez's team who looked the more likely to add to their advantage, with De Bruyne and Alderweireld spurning chances before the former got the goal his efforts deserved, curling in with eight minutes left after being found by Lukaku.

What does it mean? Belgium virtually assured of top-two finish

A comfortable victory at Hampden Park left Belgium with six wins from six and on course for a top-two finish.

Scotland, above only San Marino in the six-team group, know they at least have the cushion of the play-offs.

De Bruyne back to his best 

His performances so far this season for Manchester City have already suggested De Bruyne is returning to the peak of his powers and there was yet further evidence here in what was a world-class display from the Belgium international, who provided three assists in the first half alone before scoring a deserved goal. 

Lacklustre defending a real concern for Clarke

Losing to the world's number-one ranked team is no disgrace, but what will have infuriated Clarke is the ease with which his Scotland side gave goals away. They lacked defensive discipline, failing to track runners and allowing their opponents too much space from set-pieces.

What's next?

Scotland travel to Russia next month and a second-half caution for a challenge on Mertens means Scott McTominay will be suspended for that game. Belgium host Group I's bottom side San Marino.

Ryan Babel scored twice as Netherlands kept the pressure on the top two in Euro 2020 qualifying Group C with a comfortable 4-0 win at Estonia.

The Oranje reignited their campaign with a stunning 4-2 victory over Germany on Friday and they built on that with a second successive away win, though Estonia put up significantly less of a fight at Le Coq Arena.

Although Ronald Koeman's men clearly played within themselves in the first half, they did not need to be particularly outstanding to take the lead, with poor goalkeeping allowing Babel to convert.

The Galatasaray forward doubled his tally a minute after the break, before Memphis Depay's sumptuous effort and Georginio Wijnaldum's late header ensured the Dutch coasted to all three points, setting up a potentially gripping clash with second-placed Northern Ireland next month.

Netherlands wasted no time in establishing control and the opening goal arrived in the 17th minute, as Babel nipped between his markers and guided Daley Blind's low cross into the net despite hitting his effort straight at goalkeeper Sergei Lepmets.

They remained in charge, but Netherlands' only other first-half opportunities came from distance, with Virgil van Dijk shooting just wide and Depay twice testing Lepmets.

Estonia's goalkeeper was helpless early in the second half, however, as Depay's wonderful cross found the unmarked Babel, who coolly headed into the bottom-left corner.

Depay got a deserved goal of his own 14 minutes from time, picking out the bottom-left corner from just outside the area after Ragnar Klavan failed to close him down.

And Wijnaldum wrapped things up with a close-range header that Lepmets somehow failed to keep out.

 

What does it mean? Heating up at the top of Group C

As a combination of Monday's results, Netherlands' clash with Northern Ireland suddenly takes on all new importance.

It was always likely to be crucial to both, but after Northern Ireland lost 2-0 to Germany, a win for the Dutch in Rotterdam next month will take them level on 12 points with Michael O'Neill's men, or a defeat will leave Koeman's side six points adrift with three qualifiers left. It is make or break time.

Babel still Mr. Dependable

While many neutrals are likely a bit baffled about Babel still getting into Netherlands' starting XI, he certainly still has his uses in an age when Koeman is not blessed with striker options. He led the line effectively in Tallinn, holding the ball up well and getting two goals. You cannot ask for much more than that.

Klavan caught napping

No one expected Estonia to do a great deal against Netherlands, but nevertheless, captain Klavan could have done more for two of the goals, as he lost Babel's run for the first and then stepped off Depay when he swept home from 20 yards.

What's next?

Netherlands are in action again in October, when they host Group C leaders Northern Ireland, before then going to Belarus. Estonia's quest for a first win of the campaign resumes away to Belarus, with a home game against Germany following three days later.

Samuel Umtiti seems to have escaped a serious foot injury after Barcelona tests confirmed he has only suffered bruising.

The centre-back left the France squad to return to Catalonia on Sunday after being hurt prior to the 4-1 win over Albania in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Umtiti, 25, had a check-up at Barca's medical facilities on Monday, which showed he has not sustained any severe damage.

It is unclear when Umtiti will be fit to return to action but it is likely he will be a doubt for Saturday's LaLiga meeting with Valencia at Camp Nou.

He lost his place in the Barca starting XI last term during two spells out with knee injuries, with France team-mate Clement Lenglet taking advantage and becoming Gerard Pique's usual partner.

He has been an unused substitute in all three LaLiga games of 2019-20 so far.

Robert Prosinecki quit as Bosnia-Herzegovina coach after Sunday's 4-2 defeat to Armenia left them with little hope of reaching Euro 2020.

Former Real Madrid and Barcelona midfielder Prosinecki was hired in January 2018 and enjoyed a fine start to his tenure, but Sunday's result leaves them in a poor position.

"I talked to everyone and no longer [will I be coach], I resign," he said after the match. "When I arrived, I believed we would make it to the Euros.

"We have not succeeded in this and my successor will have time to prepare the team for the Nations League. I am no longer the coach."

Prosinecki presided over Bosnia's 2018-19 Nations League campaign, seeing them top their group and earn promotion to league A for 2020-21.

He also matched Bosnia's record unbeaten run of nine matches in November last year and only failed to reach 10 by virtue of a late 1-0 defeat to Spain.

But things began to fall apart early on in Euro 2020 qualifying, as they spurned a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Greece in match two, following that up with consecutive defeats to Finland and Italy.

They returned to winning ways with a 5-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein – Prosinecki's biggest win at the helm – on Thursday, but they underwhelmed away to a Henrikh Mkhitaryan-inspired Armenia three days later.

The Roma winger scored twice and got an assist, as Armenia netted two in the final 13 minutes to move above Bosnia in Group J.

The result leaves Bosnia with seven points after six matches, already five adrift of Finland, who have played a game fewer.

Sergio Ramos became Spain's joint most-capped player on Sunday, moving level with former Real Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas.

Captain Ramos lined up for his national team for the 167th time, as they played a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Faroe Islands.

The appearance also moved him into the top 10 for the most-capped internationals ever in a list that includes only three other Europeans - Italian Gianluigi Buffon, Latvian Vitalijs Astafjevs and Casillas.

Here we profile Spain's five most-capped players.

 

Sergio Ramos - 167 caps

Ramos, 33, made his debut back as an 18-year-old against Chile in 2005, becoming the youngest player to debut for Spain in over half a century.

He was an ever-present at right-back during the World Cup triumph in 2010, won the European Championship twice with his country and is also in the top 10 of Spain's leading scorers.

Iker Casillas - 167 caps

Another to make his international bow as a teenager, Casillas was part of Spain's Euro 2000 squad having made his debut earlier that year.

Casillas became La Roja's number one at the World Cup two years later and held onto his spot between the posts until 2016.

Xavi - 133 caps

Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi was part of Spain's Olympics squad in 2000 and went on to feature at four World Cups, three European Championships and two Confederations Cups.

He received Player of the Tournament honours when Spain won Euro 2008 and was in the Team of the Tournament line-up for both the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2012.

Andres Iniesta - 131 caps

Xavi's former Barcelona team-mate Iniesta will most fondly be remembered as the man who finally brought the World Cup to Spain after scoring the extra-time winner in the final against Netherlands in 2010.

Iniesta landed the Player of the Tournament award at Euro 2012 and continued to star for Spain until his retirement from international football after the 2018 World Cup.

Andoni Zubizarreta - 126 caps

The only player in this list not to have played for Spain this millennium, goalkeeper Zubizarreta first pulled on the La Roja jersey in 1985.

He featured in four successive World Cups for his country and retired in 1998 as Spain's most-capped player - a record that was only broken in 2011 by Casillas.

Samuel Umtiti has left France's training base and will miss Tuesday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Andorra after suffering a foot injury.

The Barcelona centre-back has endured a difficult couple of years with injuries and is set for another spell on the sidelines with a haematoma in his right foot.

France confirmed prior to Saturday's 4-1 win over Albania that Umtiti was suffering with the injury, ruling him out of the contest.

They announced on Sunday the injury will also prevent him featuring against Andorra, meaning he has returned to Barcelona.

Umtiti lost his place in the Barca starting XI last term during two spells out with knee injuries – France colleague Clement Lenglet taking advantage and becoming Gerard Pique's usual partner.

Although France did not confirm how long they expect Umtiti to be sidelined for, he will likely be a doubt for Barca's visit of Valencia on Saturday.

Starting against Valencia was unlikely anyway, however, given Umtiti has been an unused substitute in Barca's three LaLiga games this season.

Manuel Neuer will call time on his career as soon as he feels Germany and Bayern Munich no longer need him.

Neuer, 33, has been first-choice Germany goalkeeper for the best part of a decade, while he has been of similar importance to Bayern since joining them in 2011.

But the Schalke academy product has endured injury problems more frequently in the past three seasons, missing almost the entirety of 2017-18 with a broken foot.

Neuer was also absent for a chunk of last term with thumb and calf issues, though he remains the go-to man between the posts for club and country, starting all but one of Germany's 11 post-World Cup matches and Bayern's three games of the new Bundesliga campaign.

Once that regularity disappears, however, Neuer expects to retire because he will find it a challenge to remain motivated.

"When you are no longer needed and you feel it, it is difficult to get up and motivate [yourself] each day," Neuer told Welt am Sonntag. "When your experience is needed and your players need you, that drives you on.

"I have the feeling that I am very much needed here in the national team and that everyone is happy that I'm here. It's clear that I have to show it in my performance.

"[My durability] is a result of my love for this sport. It excites me a lot when I'm on the pitch training or playing. It's a great fulfilment for me. I'm 33 years old, but when I'm on the pitch I always feel that I can improve on my goalkeeping.

"I'm still as annoyed with things that don't work out as they did nine or 10 years ago and I'm still happy about things that work out.

"These are signs that mean something to me. Namely, how ambitious I am still. [I want to] play as long as my body can do it, I'm having fun and I'm needed.

"At a young age you don't have to do so much to keep fit. It's changing. I've already noticed that, so I pay close attention to what I do and how I approach things."

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