Failings of England's 'Golden Generation' baffle Guardiola

The former Barcelona coach believes that the Three Lions have "top" young players and that the national team have been burned by previous struggles

Pep Guardiola believes England's current generation of talent is capable of challenging for major international honours – although the Manchester City boss remembers the Three Lions being in a similar situation not so long ago.

City duo Raheem Sterling and John Stones featured for England during the recent international break, with Gareth Southgate aiming to make his mark as manager following a run of disappointments at major tournament finals.

Southgate boasts a youthful and talented core, with the likes of Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli, Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Sterling among those providing reasons to be cheerful, although a catalogue of failures means optimism around the England side appears to be as hard a sell as it ever has been.

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Guardiola was celebrated for helping to bring through an stunningbatch of stars when in charge of Barcelona and, having made Sterling and Stones a key part of his plans at City, he is in no doubt over the quality of homegrown talent in the Premier League.

"In my experience in Spain, my experience in Germany and now here, you cannot imagine how good the young English players are," he said ahead of City's trip to Arsenal on Sunday, before evoking England's once feted "Golden Generation".

"I could not imagine the generation of [Frank] Lampard, [Michael] Carrick, [Paul] Scholes, [Steven] Gerrard, [John] Terry, [Rio] Ferdinand were not able to do something more," he said. "As a spectator I don't understand.

"In Spain they always talk about the generation of midfield players like Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, [Sergio] Busquets. They are top, but the players I announced before, they are on the same level. Always I thought, why not?

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"I saw in their last games, England Under-19s won 3-0 against Spain. They are good, good players.

"When you see [Kyle] Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Alli, John Stones and Rash [Sterling] – they are top.

"From my point of view the quality is there. I think in Under-21s and Under-19s the quality is there too."

City's Champions League last-16 defeat at the hands of Monaco left reigning Premier League champions Leicester City as the division's only representative in the quarter-finals.

Guardiola believes increased levels of exposure to the latter stages of European competitions would hugely benefits England players, while he echoed some of Southgate's own thoughts when reflecting on his homeland's journey from nearly men to tournament winners.

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The ex-Barcelona midfielder won Olympic gold in 1992 before going on to 47 caps without comparable glory with Spain's senior side.

Southgate called for English football to ditch its "island mentality" and spoke of the benefits players could garner from playing abroad – an argumentGuardiola inadvertently aidedby exiling Joe Hart for season on loan at Torino.

"They need to make that step. Spain was the same. In my time it was quarter-finals, out; quarter-finals, out," he said.

"But the people started to go abroad. Xabi Alonso went to Liverpool, the people stayed there, Cesc arrived at Arsenal.

"In one moment – semi-finals, finals, win, win, win. We were able to compete against Italy, Germany, Brazil and Argentina. In the past it was not possible. You are able to think now we are good, now we are able to beat them.

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"It's a little bit like Manchester City now. You arrive in Europe and you need time, it is not just one day.

"I think the quality at City now and with England players, they have it. Hopefully Gareth Southgate can help and the teams in the Champions League in future can do that."

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