England boss Gareth Southgate responds to United States interest in Folarin Balogun
Gareth Southgate has responded to the United States’ attempts to poach Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun away from England.
The England Under-21s striker pulled out of Lee Carsley’s latest squad due to injury, and appeared to take to Instagram to complain about not being selected for the senior team, writing: “In life go where you are appreciated.”
The United States yesterday confirmed contact with the striker, who has scored 18 goals in 29 games while on loan at Reims, which is more than Paris Saint-Germain pair Lionel Messi and Neymar and just two fewer than Ligue 1 top scorer Kylian Mbappe.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Euro 2024 qualifier at home to Ukraine on Sunday, England boss Southgate revealed his stance on an increasingly tense situation.
He said: “It is up to the player to weigh up where his heart feels. 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.”
England have lost several players in similar circumstances over recent years, including Germany and Bayern Munich forward Jamal Musiala, Ivory Coast and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and USA and Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah.
Southgate revealed that ignoring Toney’s form at Brentford wouldn’t have been fair just to keep Balogun happy, saying no special effort has been made to convince him to reject the USA.
“I haven’t yet because to this point, he has been with the U21s,” Southgate admitted about not reaching out to Balogun. “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.”