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Liverpool staff agree with Joey Barton after big call from Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate, Manager of England, looks on following the England Men UEFA Euro 2024 Training Squad Announcement at St George's Park on May 21, 2024 in Burton upon Trent, England.
-Credit: (Image: Richard Pelham/Getty Images)


Liverpool will not be unduly bothered by the relatively low regard in which Gareth Southgate seems to hold its players. There's a very real chance that only one Reds player could be on the plane to the Euros this summer, which would give new manager Arne Slot a good stretch of time to work with those missing the cut.

In Southgate's provisional squad, however, four Liverpool players have been named. Among those, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the only near-certain inclusion in the final list, and even he has found it notoriously difficult to curry favor with the England boss.

Joining him in the 33-man selection (it will be cut down to 26) are Curtis Jones, Joe Gomez and Jarell Quansah. This latter pick goes down as the most unexpected, but Joey Barton finds himself in the unlikely role of Nostradamus, while staff at Liverpool have also been left relatively unsurprised.

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Always a controversial figure, Barton has catapulted himself out of the football mainstream in recent months, spouting increasingly fringe views. Yet it was less than a year ago that he was a manager in the Football League with Bristol Rovers.

It was there that he crossed paths with Quansah. Liverpool entrusted the development of its young center-back to Barton, and he was parachuted straight into the team, gaining valuable minutes that will have helped stand him in good stead for the breakthrough campaign he has just enjoyed at Anfield.

And Barton had little doubt about Quansah's ability. He tipped him to go to the very top:

“I’m mindful of not heaping too much on the kids but, why not?” Barton said, answering a question about whether Quansah could end up representing England (via Bristol Live). “He’s as good on the ball that you’ll need to be in terms of building out from the back.

"He’s going to get bigger, he’s going to get stronger, he’s going to get faster. His anticipation of the game is going to be better because more senior games get you that."

Barton admitted that the one concern Rovers had harbored when bringing him in was his aerial ability. This season in the Premier League, Quansah has been among the very best in this regard, winning more than three headers par game with a very respectable percentage of duels won.

It's this form that has seen Southgate call him up, even if most will expect to see him drop out of the full squad. But staff at Liverpool have echoed Barton's belief that Quansah could ultimately be a fixture in the national side, alongside another of the young squad members.

"I was down at the academy on Thursday, doing some bits and bobs with people working there,” Theo Squires told the Blood Red podcast. "And they were saying that they could easily envisage England’s center-back pairing being [Jarrad] Branthwaite and Quansah in the coming years because they complement each other so well.”

The pair are likely in a direct battle for a spot in Southgate's final 26-man England squad this time around, even if you could make the case for both of them over a more experienced name like Harry Maguire. But in future, Quansah and Branthwaite could certainly make a formidable pairing.

Liverpool.com says: To be fair to Southgate, it was a big call just to include Quansah. It shouldn't have been — he's actually amassed more minutes than Maguire this season, and hardly put a foot wrong — but he was not really being discussed as someone in the frame.

But with his elite physical characteristics coupled with a mature reading of the game, he already looks like one of England's better options at the back. It's not often I'll agree with Barton, but he certainly spotted something in the youngster.

As for Branthwaite, it's a shame that he's at Everton. Despite previous links, that likely precludes a transfer. But he too looks destined for the top, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him earn a move this summer.