England manager Gareth Southgate hailed James Maddison as among the best attacking players in the Premier League after the Leicester midfielder was included Thursday in his country’s World Cup squad.
Southgate has showed faith in a series of players short on form or fitness and had previously overlooked Maddison.
The 25-year-old has only one senior cap, back in 2019, and was controversially pictured in a casino just days after pulling out of England duty due to illness three years ago.
However, of the players available to the England boss, only Harry Kane has scored and assisted more Premier League goals in 2022 than Maddison.
“He’s earned the right,” said Southgate. “We think he can give us something slightly different to the other attacking players we have got.
“I think he’s playing as well as any of the attacking players in this country. We’ve got different types of threat and I think we could need that.”
Manchester City duo Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips are included despite fitness concerns.
Southgate conceded that Walker is unlikely to be fit for England’s opening game against Iran on November 21.
The right-back is on his way back from a groin injury, while Phillips had only played 13 minutes this season prior to coming on as a substitute in City’s 2-0 League Cup win over Chelsea on Wednesday.
“We feel that is a risk worth taking,” added Southgate on selecting Phillips.
“He is free of injury. We are aware he’s not going to be able to play seven 90 minutes, we will have to build his fitness level.”
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire is included despite being dropped at club level.
The absence of Chelsea right-back Reece James means Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive weaknesses have been overlooked by Southgate to make the 26-man squad.
Conor Gallagher is another surprise selection in midfield with Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse omitted.
Up front, Newcastle’s Callum Wilson was selected ahead of Ivan Toney and Tammy Abraham to be Kane’s deputy.
After facing Iran, England take on the USA and Wales in Group B.
SQUAD IN FULL
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw (both Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham), John Stones, Kyle Walker (both Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Conor Coady (Everton), Ben White (Arsenal), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher (both Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City)
Forwards: James Maddison (Leicester), Phil Foden, Jack Grealish (both Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Callum Wilson (Newcastle), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
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