England manager Gareth Southgate admitted that Raheem Sterling was not happy with being overlooked for the upcoming internationals with Ukraine and Scotland.
Sterling has not played for England since he came off the bench in the quarter-final of the 2022 World Cup, missing the following squad through injury before being left out of the team in June amid concerns over both his form and fitness.
This season has been a different story for Sterling, who has been thoroughly impressive thus far and already sits on two goals from just three games for Chelsea, yet he remains out in the cold at international level.
But Southgate told his news conference upon confirmation of England’s squad that he simply could not find room for Sterling in his party.
“We were really pleased with the group [in June],” Southgate explained. “To bring Raheem back in we have to leave someone else out and on the back of three games I didn’t think anybody in this group of attacking players warrants being left out.
“It’s really good to see him start the season so well. He looks in good condition, he looks hungry. He’s obviously an important player for us and has been an important player for us. But we have in those attacking areas just behind the nine a lot of competition for places.
“I think all of those players have started the season well and certainly the group that are with us has done really well for us in the in the recent games.”
When it was pointed out that Sterling has now missed three consecutive England camps, Southgate added: “He was not available for the last two and of course that’s given other people the opportunity to play well and to establish themselves in the group.
“It’s a difficult call and Raheem is not particularly happy about it, but I understand that because he’s an important player for us.
“I’m convinced he’s going to have an excellent season with Chelsea, there’s no doubt about that.”
In Sterling’s place, Southgate has opted to hand call-ups to Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and Eberechi Eze.