Gareth Southgate’s end game… England boss set to walk after Euros and FA could even try to lure Pep Guardiola!
- FA officials could bid for Guardiola, whose Manchester City deal runs out in 2025
- There is concern over the future of Harry Kane, who will be 31 after the Euros
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off
The prospect of Gareth Southgate departing the England hotseat is not the elephant in the room it once was.
FA chiefs are conscious of the uncertainty and taking seriously the possibility that Southgate will saunter into the sunset after next summer’s European Championship in Germany.
There were similar vibes before last year’s World Cup when Eddie Howe, Graham Potter and Mauricio Pochettino were all considered in the event of Southgate standing down.
The dream appointment of some at the FA is Pep Guardiola — an option officials are open to exploring.
Last winter, the FA were desperate for Southgate to stay regardless of the outcome in Qatar. As it transpired, a quarter-final defeat by eventual finalists France offered enough encouragement for Southgate to stay on.
FA chiefs are concerned that England manager Gareth Southgate (right) may quit after next year’s European Championships
Pep Guardiola is considered a dream appointment for some at the FA and officials are exploring a possible deal should Southgate step aside
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Notwithstanding the difficult summer of 2022, when form nosedived, England have emerged as one of world football’s elite nations — thanks in no small part to Southgate.
But prior to Qatar, FA technical director John McDermott met colleagues to discuss potential successors. They analysed the merits of Howe and Potter, concluding both would implement an attractive philosophy suited to the organisation’s ethos.
However, Howe was front and centre of a fast-moving project at Newcastle, and Potter had just taken the Chelsea job. Luring either from club football was far from guaranteed.
The merits of Brendan Rodgers, at Leicester at the time, was discussed, as was Pochettino, who was out of work after leaving Paris Saint-Germain.
Rodgers and Pochettino’s candidacies were indicative of the FA’s willingness to appoint a non-Englishman for the first time since Fabio Capello in 2008. But by the end of those initial talks, their preferred vision was clear: Southgate was staying.
This time around, compiling a succession plan appears to be more relevant, given Southgate’s contract expires at the end of next year. Howe, Potter, Pochettino and Rodgers are likely to remain viable options but FA officials are also keen on testing the water with Guardiola.
The Manchester City manager’s deal expires in 2025 — 12 months after Euro 2024. That provides an obstacle to the FA, as would his wages for an organisation still clawing back Covid losses of up to £300million.
But Guardiola’s public support for Catalan independence may create political barriers which stop him being offered the Spain job. And having managed City, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, where else is there for him to go? The FA can offer him one place.
Guardiola’s deal at current side Manchester City expired in 2025, 12 months after Euro 2024
Former Chelsea manager Graham Potter has also been under consideration for the England manager’s job
It is possible that he may stay until the 2026 World Cup having stayed on after the Qatar tournament last year
That said, we shouldn’t rule out Southgate staying until the 2026 World Cup.
The expectation was that he would leave after Qatar, but he opted not to walk — though one well-placed source believes Southgate would have quit had he been offered an attractive job.
Southgate, who welcomed his players to St George’s Park on Monday ahead of Saturday’s game against Ukraine, has taken great pride in leading the national team.
He has been good at it, too. Yet there is a realisation that the set-up needs refreshing.
The weekly squad progress meetings attended by Southgate, McDermott and assistant head coach Steve Holland may well have become repetitive by now, given the limited pool of players England has available.
The job is the pinnacle for any English coach, but there is plenty to be said for taking on new challenges. It would be understandable if Southgate felt that way.
England approach Euro 2024 as one of the favourites. Anything other than reaching the final next summer would be a disappointment.
That level of expectation tells you how successful Southgate has been. But beyond the tournament, the team will require evolution.
Jordan Henderson (left) and Harry Maguire (right) are likely coming to the end of their international careers
Harry Kane will be 31 when the Euros finish and life without him is of significant concern
Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire, stalwarts of the Southgate era, are unlikely to be involved beyond the Euros. They may not even make it that far.
Harry Kane will be 31. Life without the England captain is of significant concern to those who work closely with England.
Mason Greenwood, once the undisputed heir to Kane’s throne as England’s No 9, could not be further away from a recall.
Southgate and Holland even considered utilising Phil Foden in a false nine role in the event of an injury to Kane prior to the World Cup.
There is no chance, meanwhile, of persuading Brighton striker Evan Ferguson — who qualifies to play for England — to deviate from his international path with the Republic of Ireland.
There is no chance of England persuading Brighton’s Evan Ferguson to switch international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland
Kyle Walker, 33, and Kieran Trippier, 32, may look at Germany as their final tournament, too.
All that said, there is exciting talent emerging. Southgate has high hopes for Levi Colwill, Jacob Ramsey and Eberechi Eze. Then there is Jude Bellingham.
Southgate has invested in players such as Declan Rice and Marc Guehi, whose involvement will continue long after the former Crystal Palace and Aston Villa defender has left the job.
Rice, in particular, has benefitted from Southgate’s unerring faith. The Arsenal midfielder came of age for England during their Euro 2020 campaign.
Yet even after the tournament, there were concerns Rice could sometimes stifle the flow of the team through midfield.
There were concerns that Declan Rice may stifle the flow of the England team through midfield
Those worries are long gone, however, with Rice now one of the best midfielders in Europe
Those concerns have long since evaporated. Rice is considered one of the most complete central midfielders in Europe now.
Southgate and Holland are certain that Rice’s first exposure to Champions League football will serve to smooth any rough edges he may still have.
Should Southgate decide he wants a crack at USA 2026, regenerating this England team may not be so painful.
England’s future, with or without Southgate, is bright. But there is now a ‘with or without’ conundrum for which the FA must formulate a plan.
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