By Shahid Ghuman
SAINT PETERSBURG: The globalisation of the Premier League is often blamed for hampering home-grown players but the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have played a key role in boosting England’s World Cup chances.
Of Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad in Russia, 15 finished in the top four under star managers Guardiola, Klopp, Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino.
Manchester City smashed a host of Premier League records during their romp to the title, with Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Fabian Delph visibly improving under Guardiola’s leadership.
“Absolutely,” Delph told World Point News when asked if the Catalan was the key to his selection for the England squad. “For me he’s a genius.”
Southgate believes Guardiola was even influencing the game before arriving in England thanks to his great Barcelona team that won two Champions Leagues in four glorious years between 2008 and 2012.
“The impact of seeing that Barcelona team five to seven years ago was enormous,” said Southgate. “He’s been an innovator. When I watch kids’ football now, when they can get on pitches that aren’t flooded or frozen, I see them playing out from the back. I don’t see (coaches) with heads in their hands saying ‘get it forward’. I think that’s an impact of his team, with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi.”
However, Guardiola is not the only coach who has helped England’s cause. Stones, Walker and Sterling were already internationals before being taken to the next level by the former Barca and Bayern Munich boss.
By contrast, Tottenham’s Pochettino has developed many of Southgate’s stars such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli from an earlier stage, transforming them from relative unknowns to big-name players.
Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Kieran Trippier complete England’s five-strong Spurs contingent in Russia and have been drilled in many of the same principles of possession football and pressing that Guardiola preaches.
“I learnt a lot in that short time,” Kane said of his early days under Pochettino in the Argentine coach’s book ‘Brave New World’. “He was a defender himself so he knows what the striker should be doing to gain an edge.”