John Barnes has picked out England’s “two most important” players at this summer’s European Championships after they reached the final.
The central midfield position for England was hotly contested heading into Euro 2020. Gareth Southgate has opted to use Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice as his preferred holding midfielders.
Ahead of their opening game against Croatia, this decision was met by frustration as some argued that the England boss was being too negative with his selection.
But Phillips and Rice have been quick to silence any critics. Both players have been phenomenal at Euro 2020 as they have played a key role in England’s run to the final.
Barnes has told Sky Sports that the midfield duo have given England “balance”:
“Harry Kane has now come and scored the goals, in terms of getting us where we are, he carried that biggest threat.
“But I’ve said all along, the two most important players for England in this tournament have been Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips.
“You talk about those two, and people talking about not playing two holding midfielders, ‘do we need that?’.
“But they’ve protected the back four, we’ve only conceded one goal, and as much as you look at the defence, the work they have done in protecting them and giving England the balance of having four attacking players; Mason Mount, Harry Kane, Sterling and [Phil] Foden, [Jack] Grealish or [Bukayo] Saka.
‘Those two give them that base and that balance that I don’t think we’ve ever had.”
“I’ll say it live on air, I had to get Kalvin Phillips here and say to him, ‘you know what… big respect’.
“I think he’s been tremendous in this tournament, he’s been so solid and integral in this England team.
“For me that was my little ‘sorry’.
“It’s a little bit surreal, seeing the boys celebrate with their families, who obviously can’t come down and celebrate with them on the pitch, was brilliant.
“I think they’ve worked so hard in the game and to see how happy they are with the staff, the manager, the coaches, it’s brilliant to see so I’m delighted with that.”