England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed he had to persuade Manchester City’s Kyle Walker not to retire from international duties on more than one occasion.
Walker is in line to become Manchester City captain this season, and for the foreseeable future, after he committed his future to the Etihad Stadium following a summer of uncertainty and speculation linking him with an exit from the club.
The veteran Premier League full-back, who still performs to the very highest level under Pep Guardiola in competitive action, was close to a move to Bayern Munich – who showed a keen interest in recruiting Walker and forming a reunion with Harry Kane.
However, following a commitment from Manchester City to extend Walker’s contract until he turns 36, the former Tottenham and Aston Villa defender opted to remain at the home of the Premier League champions.
But it is not just at club level where Kyle Walker has been persuaded to make decisions, with England boss Gareth Southgate revealing that the Manchester City star considered retirement from Three Lions duty on more than one occasion in recent years.
Southgate told reporters after the Euro 2024 qualifying match against Ukraine that Kyle Walker somewhat undervalued his place in the England team and was preparing to retire after both the Euro 2020 and 2022 World Cup.
“It’s always all credit to him and I’ve talked him out of retirement twice,” Southgate said. “Out of international football, after the Euros and after the World Cup, I think he loves being here and he’s wanted to keep going and now he’s thinking about how many caps he can get.
“He’s critical to us. If we’re talking about world-class players in their position in our team then he’s probably one of them. I think he didn’t realise how much value we have him and how important he is for us. He’s probably not going to thank me for sharing that!”
The 33-year-old has been a mainstay in the England squad dating back to before becoming a Manchester City player in the summer of 2017. However, with the emergence of Trent-Alexander Arnold and Reece James, it began to look as though his role was being diminished.
From between 2016 and 2018, Kyle Walker had accumulated a total of 31 caps for his country, however in the five years since, the Manchester City man has taken on a further 33 appearances for his nation.
“Yeah, I’m playing well. Obviously, in a moment, at the time that me and Gareth spoke, the likes of Trent, Tripps, Reece James coming through… You do think your days are numbered. And to sacrifice how many holidays and summers that I’ve sacrificed.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 19 [when] I joined the senior team. I’m 33 now. Me and Gareth have a good relationship off the field. We do speak and I feel that I can still bring something to the team. So why stop?”
It is a familiar sentiment for Kyle Walker, who recently admitted that he was close to leaving Manchester City to join fellow countryman and former Tottenham teammate Harry Kane at Bayern Munich this summer.
Since joining Manchester City in 2017, Walker has made over 260 appearances for the club, winning over 10 major trophies, and has become synonymous with preventing counter-attacks from some of the fastest players in world football, something that Gareth Southgate highlighted.
“He’s got huge experience of winning big matches and all week, I pulled him two or three days into the training because his focus was really clear, the way he was organising on the pitch and I think he’s enjoying the extra responsibility he’s had at his club and I know he’s ready to embrace that with us as well.”
Walker and Manchester City will return to action on Saturday afternoon, when they travel to the London Stadium to take on high-flying West Ham United in the Premier League in the traditional 3PM kick-off time slot.
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