Gareth Southgate admitted that England have struggled to produce star players with the regularity of Spain, picking out his former team-mate Paul Gascoigne as a “unique talent” in the modern history of the Three Lions.
Gascoigne earned 57 England caps between 1988 and 1998 and played alongside Southgate at Euro 96, where his performances cemented his place as one of the country’s finest creative midfielders.
Following England’s 2-1 defeat to Spain at Wembley on Saturday, Southgate reflected on his country’s struggle to unearth players with Gascoigne’s talent and suggested that an increased focus on technical ability at junior level could help to nurture more creative players.
Weighing up England’s most talented players against the likes of Spain’s Andres Iniesta, Xavi and David Silva, Southgate said: “The only one in my lifetime is Paul Gascoigne and I’m not sure he was developed, I think he was a consequence of a unique talent.
“I think what is happening at junior level is that there is more emphasis on technical ability.
“Right from five, six, seven-year-olds, there is more emphasis on being able to handle the ball and play.
“We’re seeing that with some of our junior teams. But we can see there’s a period of time for those players to come through.”
After taking the lead at Wembley through Marcus Rashford’s early goal, England were undone by strikes from Saul Niguez and Rodrigo Moreno as Spain’s midfield began to control the game.
Great to be back at Wembley, incredible support, wish we could have got the win for you but wasn’t our night pic.twitter.com/4C4w0Cwsll
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) September 8, 2018
Southgate said he was impressed by the way Spain had replaced the heroes of their 2010 World Cup-winning side with creative players like Isco, Sergio Busquets and Thiago Alcantara.
“We can see there’s a few players around our squad that have the ability to do that, but Spain have had a production line for a long period of time,” said the England manager.
“Look at those who have gone and those that come into the team. Of that type of player, they’ve produced more than any other team in the world.”
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