Phil Foden did not come off the bench in England's goalless draw with USA on Friday

‘Has something happened in training or off the pitch?’: Gary Neville says he is ‘struggling’ to understand absence of ‘generational talent’ Phil Foden from Gareth Southgate’s England starting XI after he was again left on the bench in drab USA draw

Gary Neville has suggested that something may have happened in training to keep Phil Foden out of the England team at the World Cup.

Foden was limited to a cameo appearance off the bench in England’s opening game against Iran, and was not used at all in England’s dire goalless draw with USA on Friday, despite the side lacking creativity throughout the dull encounter.

Neville thinks it is difficult to understand why Foden isn’t being used, and has questioned whether an issue behind the scenes could be a factor in Gareth Southgate’s decision-making.

Phil Foden did not come off the bench in England's goalless draw with USA on Friday

Phil Foden did not come off the bench in England’s goalless draw with USA on Friday

Gary Neville wonders whether something has happened in training to keep Foden out the team

Gary Neville wonders whether something has happened in training to keep Foden out the team

‘I’m struggling with Foden a little bit just because I think he’s our best player in the country by a mile,’ Neville told Sky Sports.

‘Phil Foden is a generational talent that I feel as though he has to play, he has to be played into form and it has to work with England. 

‘I went through my career with England where there were times where Paul Scholes was mishandled. I even woke up this morning thinking about Phil Foden, thinking: “Has something happened in training? Has something happened off the pitch which has meant that Gareth hasn’t seen what he wants to see?”

‘Because Gareth answered the question after the game that Phil Foden isn’t a player that plays in those midfield positions, those number 10 roles of Bellingham and Mount. Well that means that last night, Phil Foden was fifth-choice wide player for England. 

‘You’ve got Saka and Sterling, and then you’ve got Grealish and Rashford that came on, and I like all four of those, so it’s not a reflection on any four of those. 

‘But I have to say that those two number 10s, Bellingham and Mount, and those four, I do believe Phil Foden is the star amongst all of them. I do believe he’s the most outstanding talent out of all of them, even though they’ve all got brilliant talent.’

Neville thinks Foden is more talented than Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka, who both started for England on Friday

Gareth Southgate chose to bring on Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford ahead of Foden

Gareth Southgate chose to bring on Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford ahead of Foden

Pep Guardiola has total faith in Foden, but Southgate appears to prefer his other options

Pep Guardiola has total faith in Foden, but Southgate appears to prefer his other options

Foden has previously had disciplinary issues while on England duty. In 2020, he was sent home by Southgate for breaching Covid-19 protocols on a trip to Iceland after inviting two women into the team hotel hours after making his senior debut for the Three Lions.

He later admitted it was a ‘massive mistake’ and has since become a key player at Manchester City in recent years, playing a significant role in their last two Premier League title wins.

While largely operating on the wings, he has also played up front and in a deeper role in midfield, with Pep Guardiola trusting him to deliver in the big matches. He is yet to become a regular starter at international level, though. 

Neville thinks it is vital that Southgate starts to get the best out of Foden, who he feels is a ‘once in a lifetime’ player. 

‘Phil Foden is an amazing football player, someone that you just see once in a lifetime, I believe,’ Neville continued.

‘He plays for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and I think he would be in the Argentina, Brazil, Spanish, French, German starting XIs.’

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