- Southgate explains Balogun situation
- Hasn't talked to striker recently
- Balogun travelled to Orlando, where USMNT have been stationed
WHAT HAPPENED? Balogun pulled out from a England U-21 call up due to injury, only to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to Orlando, where the USMNT are stationed for their Nations League matches. Balogun has taken in the sights in Florida, training alone while also visiting the NBA's Orlando Magic and MLB's New York Yankees.
Balogun is eligible to play for the U.S., England or Nigeria, with the USMNT pushing to convince the Reims striker to join their program. Southgate, however, is leaving the decision to Balogun, saying he will have to be patient if he does indeed want to play for England.
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WHAT THEY SAID: “It is up to the player to weigh up where his heart feels," Southgate said. "Is he prepared to wait a little bit for an opportunity if he backs himself and feels he can push his way into our squad? Because anybody who has followed us will know that we will give young players a chance. So, we cannot go and give first-team call-ups to someone just because we don’t want them to go somewhere else.
“We like Flo. He has obviously not had an opportunity in the Premier League yet, so we have to weigh up those goals to Ivan [Toney], for example, or Ollie Watkins. Or Eddie Nketiah, who has done really well with the opportunity he has had at Arsenal.
“I know there are going to be offers as 80 per cent of our players can play for more than one country now, and we are not arrogant expecting everybody to want to come to play for England. We have to make them feel wanted and feel part of that.
“Ultimately, it does not matter what you say. If you cannot give them the opportunity now, then some people are patient and want to see it through and are prepared to wait a bit and others want it now and I can totally understand that.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Southgate went on to add that he has not personally spoken to Balogun personally in an effort to convince him to stay with England. The Three Lions manager says he isn't willing to give Balogun special treatment over, for example, Toney, just because the Reims striker is eligible to play somewhere else.
“I haven’t yet because to this point, he has been with the U21s,” Southgate said. “I am very happy. Clearly, other nations have been quite aggressive in their recruitment and what they are offering.
“That, in my experience of history, has been really successful for the players and sometimes hasn’t worked out. Countries cap players at 16 or 17 and they disappear. In the end, as a player, I think you back yourself but you have to ultimately make the decision.
“We would like him to give it some time and if he is progressing the way he is and continues that progression there will be opportunities for him but I cannot offer him that this week.I think if we did, I don’t think that would be fair on Ivan Toney who has scored the goals he has in the Premier League.”
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WHAT NEXT FOR USMNT? The U.S. will face El Salvador on Monday as they look to advance in the Nations League. England, meanwhile, are set to host Ukraine on Sunday in a Euro 2024 qualifier.