European experience will turn England youth into winners, says Manchester City's Pep Guardiola

Mike Whalley
Guardiola with City and England youngster Sterling: Getty

Pep Guardiola has indicated that regular European football is more likely than the Premier League to help young talent make England successful.

The Manchester City manager believes players such as Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will develop faster by playing in the later stages of the Champions League.

He has also hinted that the Premier League should be more flexible with its schedule to allow English teams to succeed in Europe.

Guardiola is of the opinion that the current generation of young English players, such as City’s Sterling and John Stones, Arsenal’s Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tottenham’s Dele Alli, are as good as any emerging talent anywhere in the world.

But he believes it is only by playing regularly at major European venues such as the Nou Camp, the Bernabeu and the Allianz Arena that England’s best young players can develop the right mental attitude to win major tournaments.

Sterling and Stones are set to line up against Oxlade-Chamberlain when City visit Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.

As far as Guardiola is concerned, all three can help England end the long wait for major international success that Spain endured before winning Euro 2008, a triumph that came 44 years after their last significant trophy.

He said: “From my experience in Spain and Germany and now here, you cannot imagine how good the young players here are.

“But then I could not imagine the generation of Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand were not able to do something more. As a spectator, I don’t understand.

“For example, compare it with Spain, who always talk about the generation of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets. They are top players. But those players I mentioned before are of the same level.

“Kyle Walker, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, John Stones, Raheem Sterling, they are top. From my point of view, the quality is there and they have the quality at Under-19 and Under-21 level too.

“But it’s what you have to do to help that quality for the national team. Maybe they have to focus more on the European competitions so the guys can handle the important stages of the big competitions, and then go to the national team and play Germany, Italy, Spain and not have a problem.

“The talent is there, I have no doubts about that. They need to make that step. Spain was the same too. In my time we were always quarter-finals, quarter-finals, quarter-finals.

Guardiola has said players like Sterling need more time on the European stage to reach their potential (Getty)

“But players started to go abroad, Alonso went to Liverpool and Cesc Fabregas went to Arsenal and bang, semi-finals, finals, win, win, win.

“It’s the same with Manchester City a bit in the Champions League. When you arrive in Europe, you need time. But I think the quality like City have now is there and the England players can do it.”

Guardiola echoed past complaints from Jose Mourinho, the current Manchester United manager, and long-serving predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson about the demands placed by the English domestic fixture list on teams in European competition.

He said: “I have heard complaints in the past from Sir Alex, Jose Mourinho and a lot of players about the schedule being so complicated but it is what it is.

“You can only answer what you see and what you believe. At the end, the federations have to decide what they do. But my humble advice is try to enjoy the European competitions because it’s fun, really fun.”

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