Pep Guardiola has launched an incredible defence of English football.
The Manchester City manager insists he has been stunned by the sheer quality of the Premier League’s homegrown talent since arriving at the Etihad in the summer.
Boss Guardiola believes that England have what it takes become a nation of world-beaters. And the Catalan has even pinpointed what it will take to ensure our next Golden Generation turns potential into prizes.
“From my experience in Spain and Germany and now here, you cannot imagine how good the young players here are,” said the man responsible for bringing through the Barcelona boys who became the backbone of Spain’s 2010 World Cup-winning team.
“For example, I saw the last England Under-19s game, where they won 3-0 against Spain.
“England have quality at Under-19s and Under-21s, and then there is Kyle Walker, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, John Stones and Raheem Sterling. They are top.
“The quality is there. But it’s what you have to do to help that quality for the national team. Maybe they have to focus more on the European competitions, so then they can go to the national team and play Germany, Italy, Spain and not have a problem.
“To have played many times in the Bernabeu, many times in Turin and many times in the Camp Nou and to handle that situation, you have to live that situation as much as possible.
“That is why they need to focus more on Europe. The talent is there, I have no doubts about that. They need to make that step.
“Spain was the same.
“In my time, we were always quarter-finals, quarter-finals, quarter-finals. But then the people started to go abroad. Xabi Alonso went to Liverpool and Cesc Fabregas went to Arsenal and bang! It is finals – win, win, win.
“Then we were able to compete against Italy, which, in the past, was impossible.Germany, which was not possible. Brazil, not possible. Argentina, not possible. But, at that moment, it was possible. Now we are good, now we can beat them.
“It’s the same with Manchester City in the Champions League.
“When you arrive in Europe, you need time. But I think the quality that City have now is there and the England players can do it. Hopefully, [new Three Lions manager] Gareth Southgate and the teams in the Champions League in the future can do it.”
As an outsider, Guardiola can’t believe the talent England have wasted in the past.
And it is clear that, while he recognises the Premier League as a strength, the insular nature of the English game has its flaws.
The City boss said: “I can’t imagine the generation of Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand… they had the talent to do something more. I don’t understand why they didn’t.
“For example, compare it with Spain, who talk about the generation of Xavi, Andreas Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets. Those English players are of the same level. So why didn’t they?”
Bringing young players through is an issue for Guardiola to address at City.
Stones and Sterling have been recruited for big money, but the key for the Catalan is to make the most of the talent being produced at the club’s state-of-the-art academy.
City have six players out of contract in the summer and with another six who could go besides, Guardiola admitted that he is ready to blood the kids.
He said: “I see players here, but it’s just a pity they are so young – 16 or 17. Maybe in Italy, one or two are playing by that age. I know four or five of the young players here will come on the tour to the United States this summer.
“At Manchester City, the 12s, the 13s, 14s, 15s and 16s have won a lot of titles and are playing well – and the women have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.
“So I’m really pleased with how they are all working.”