Five excellent players England and Southgate won’t be able to tempt into international action

Matt Stead
Republic of Ireland striker Evan Ferguson
Evan Ferguson won't be doing a Declan Rice

Evan Ferguson neither wants nor is able to play for England, while Michael Olise and a Liverpool loanee have sworn their youth allegiance elsewhere.


Evan Ferguson
“A bloody good player” though he is, in the never-not-censored words of Gareth Southgate, Ferguson is officially out of England’s reach. The ever-changing FIFA eligibility rules – and some Declan Rice flashbacks – led to concerns that he might swap the Republic of Ireland for the Three Lions, but six caps in less than a year since debuting for the Boys in Green have tied him down.

It was never even a thought in the Brighton striker’s mind. “Obviously, my mum’s English, so that’s where the tie comes in,” he said earlier this year. “I’ve seen a few saying, ‘Oh, will he? Will he?’. I can tell you now, it’s a no.”

He is, for all intents and purposes, proper family-would-legitimately-disown Irish.

So that’s that. Three friendlies and three qualifiers, in which the 18-year-old has scored two goals and set up one, has scuppered any hopes England might have had of the perfect transition from the era of Harry Kane. Tottenham had similar ideas; Brighton won’t mind where Ferguson ends up, as long as they get their usual transfer premium.


Michael Olise
Chelsea completely botched their planned capture of Olise
but it remains to be seen where the Crystal Palace forward’s allegiances lie in international terms.

England undoubtedly face a battle to win the 21-year-old round. Olise has only ever represented France at youth level and while he is eligible to play for England, Algeria or Nigeria, the driving seat is currently occupied by Les Bleus.

“Like a lot of players with dual nationality, it is their right. We can’t guarantee them anything. We let them know that we are interested and he has chosen other paths,” lamented a rejected England U21 manager Lee Carsley in 2022. While Olise remains uncapped by any country at senior level the question will always be there but the 21-year-old seems reluctant to embrace the Three Lions as an answer.


Harvey Barnes
A solitary England cap earned so long ago
that it came in a game Joe Gomez, Conor Coady, Michael Keane, Harry Winks, Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin started has somehow not persuaded Barnes that he has a long-term future with the Three Lions.

The idea of a swap deal in the perennial international transfer window has been mooted, with Scotland set to move for Barnes and Elliot Anderson liking the sound of Southgate. The Newcastle pair have decent options to choose from in that respect: the Euro 2024 favourites or England.

Angus Gunn and Che Adams are among those to have made a successful switch recently, planting the seed in Barnes’ mind to abandon any pretence of breaking to the front of that England forward queue so he can set up the world’s greatest goalscorer Scott McTominay every few months.


Fabio Carvalho
A loan move to Leipzig has not quite heralded the career renaissance Liverpool and Carvalho might have had in mind just yet. The player was likely tempted to the Bundesliga by more than the promise of just six minutes in three games, but there is ample time to turn things around.

Only then might the subject of his international eligibility become relevant again. With 22 caps for England age groups between the U16s and U18s, it seemed that minds had been made up. But most recently Carvalho has pledged his allegiance to Portugal, playing four times for the U21s and making the senior side’s 55-man preliminary selection for the 2022 World Cup.

Perhaps reflecting on a decision to focus on matters at club level, Carvalho then made the call to let Portugal know – via text – “that he does not intend to continue representing” the U21s. That has theoretically reopened the door to England but while admitting he “likes” the player, Southgate revealed that a lack of English passport would preclude any hope of procuring Carvalho until he obtains one.


Ezri Konsa
This one might be based a little more on conjecture as there has been no indication as to Konsa’s thoughts on the matter, but the 25-year-old’s slide into Southgate’s centre-half void has surely helped clarify things.

With the Harry Maguire comfort blanket permanently deployed, Konsa was overlooked yet again for September’s games as the combined eight caps of Lewis Dunk, Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi and Levi Colwill were called upon during the mildest of injury crises.

Even at the peak of his and Aston Villa’s form under Unai Emery it never seemed as though Konsa was close to registering on the England radar. There are only so many places left once you’ve picked Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady for their dressing-room presence.

Angola and DR Congo will be monitoring any developments, while Portugal might finally move on from Pepe at some point. But probably not.