Gareth Southgate says England must get the balance right with youngsters

Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
·3-min read

Gareth Southgate says England need to keep on top of eligibility issues and ensure young players want to play for them after 18-year-old Bayern Munich star Jamal Musiala declared for Germany.

Four months on from scoring on his first England Under-21 start against Albania, the highly-rated teenager committed his international future to his country of birth.

Musiala was born in Stuttgart and moved to England when he was seven, spending time at Southampton and Chelsea before joining Bayern in 2019.

The teenager’s progress has seen him called up by Germany for this month’s World Cup qualifiers, while Valencia teenager Yunus Musah, also 18, has now committed to the United States.

Musah represented England Under-19s in October and played in friendlies for the US senior team the following month, with Southgate hoping such switches keep minds sharp at the Football Association.

“It’s definitely a situation that we’re going to encounter more and more as we move forward and it’s very complicated,” the England manager said.

“I think there are discussions around what’s the player pathway and there is a different decision for players around what their heart says. And I think these two boys seem to have gone with their country of birth.

“I’m not going to say, you know, we’re not worried by that because we think they can both be very good players in the future and at their age you just don’t know what they might become.

“They’re both playing European football, having great experiences.

“What we weren’t able to do was fast-track them into the seniors. We didn’t think that was where we saw them just yet.

“We think both have progressed well, they both would have both been in age groups ahead of their actual age. Jamal has been with the Under-21s.

England U21 v Albania U21 – UEFA Euro Under 21 Qualifying – Group 3 – Molineux
Jamal Musiala has chosen to represent Germany (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Germany have obviously been able to speak to Jamal and he’s training there every day, and he’s at Bayern Munich, and of course he explained his decision and, you know, we’ve got to wish him good luck and hope he has a successful career.

“But at the same time we’ve got to make sure of a couple of things, really.

“One is that the experience when the boys are with us is so good that they don’t want to move and that we’re never arrogant in thinking that players will just want to play for England.

Wales v USA – International Friendly – Liberty Stadium
Yunus Musah has chosen to represent the United States (David Davies/PA)

“We know that that landscape is very different now to what it would have been five years ago and there will be more and more of these cases. We’ve got to be on top of the eligibility issues.

“We’ve benefited from some guys who’ve transferred across and thankfully pretty much all of those players have gone on to play for the seniors, so it’s not that we’ve promised something that eventually we’ve not been able to fulfil.

“But we’re very conscious that we want to get that balance right.

“We don’t want to just go and cap people so that they can’t go and play somewhere else.

“We think there’s a moral and an ethical duty to get those decisions right as well.”