Gary Neville has claimed losing Harry Maguire would be a bigger handicap to England’s Euro 2020 hopes than if Harry Kane were to miss out.
England boss Gareth Southgate has had his final chance to look at players in international action before narrowing his squad down for this summer’s tournament.
Neville was offering up his thoughts on the squad, and suggested England could not do without Manchester United defender Maguire.
What has been said?
Neville conceded Tottenham star Kane is the best player in the squad, but not the most important to England’s hopes of glory.
“I always imagine losing a player,” Neville said on Sky Sports. “So you lose Harry Maguire. That is a big problem for Gareth Southgate. I think it is his biggest problem.”
Elaborating on his thinking, Neville added: “If you've then got John Stones as your other centre-back... Think if you’ve got Stones and [Tyrone] Mings, Stones and [Conor] Coady, Stones and [Eric] Dier. I am not having it.”
Asked specifically if he believed Maguire was a bigger loss than Kane, Neville replied: “Yes I do.
“For this squad, yes. Harry Kane is the best player in the squad, but if Gareth wants to have a back four and go 4-3-3, the only chance of that is keeping Harry Maguire fit.
“We’ve seen Coady in a back four tonight. Mings in a back four, I like him but I don’t think he can play in a back four at the level we are talking about in terms of winning the tournament.”
The Kane conundrum
Kane has had ankle problems for spells of his career, and had an issue earlier this term.
Neville feels England would have options to tinker with formations and personnel were Kane to succumb to injury.
“I do think there is a problem if Harry Kane gets injured,” he said. “But you could go with [Marcus] Rashford, [Dominic] Calvert-Lewin, [Raheem] Sterling as a false forward, [Phil] Foden. There are options that England could [use and] still win games.
"But with Harry Maguire injured, I think the ability to go to a back four is lost.”
England’s Euro 2020 aims
England have been placed in Group D alongside Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic.
Given the top two and the best four third-placed teams advance to the round of 16, failing to qualify for the knockout stages would be unthinkable.
Reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 raised hope that England could end their long wait for a major trophy, but all four teams who advanced to the last four in Russia were European so the task won’t be easy.
With a crop of young stars emerging, the likelihood is that Southgate’s minimum aim is a place in the semi-finals.