Gareth Southgate says he decided to call James Maddison on Thursday morning to confirm he was included in his World Cup squad amid reports the Leicester attacking midfielder was set to miss out. The 25-year-old playmaker has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season, having registered six goals and four assists for the struggling Foxes who have now turned their season around much to the help of Maddison’s rich vein of form.
Besides Harry Kane, no other English player has been involved in more Premier League goals (18 goals, 12 assists) since the start of the 2021/22 season – figures Southgate was not willing to ignore.
Maddison has just one Three Lions cap to his name which came back in November 2019 when he featured from the bench in the 7-0 win over Montenegro.
He has been the major talking point all week but Southgate has now disclosed that he’d decided Maddison would be in his squad a number of weeks ago – a statement that is hugely complementary of Maddison’s recent performances.
“I spoke to James because this morning there was a lot of speculation that James wouldn’t be with us,” Southgate said of Maddison.
“We decided a couple of weeks ago that we would [be taking him to the World Cup] but we weren’t going to tell him then.
“My priority these days is the difficult conversations and the sad news, that is really tough.”
Before later adding: “He was delighted, I had some very difficult calls that were at the other end of the emotional spectrum.”
Southgate later explained the reasons behind his decision to pick the attacker, declaring: “He’s playing really well. Look he’s a good player, we’ve always said he’s a good player.
“He’s earned the right. We think he can give us something slightly different to the other attacking players that we’ve got.
“So I think at various stages there have been conversations and debates about James, there’s been moments where ahead of the Euros, I don’t think he was in contention. He had a problem with his hip.
“September [international break] was probably a fair debate but I think he’s playing as well as any of the attacking players in this country.
“He is a little bit different to the others and we’ve got different types of threat.”
Maddison missed a call from Southgate this morning before Leicester training and Brendan Rodgers gave him permission to head into his office to return the call.
His player returned with a beaming smile following the good news and Rodgers could hardly contain his delight following Maddison’s inclusion.
The Foxes head coach said: “It’s wonderful news for James and his family. I’m delighted for Gareth to have that talent available. His level and consistency and his work ethic, and what he has proven over this last year, he’s shown he’s one of the best players in the Premier League. Credit to him and his team-mates, he wouldn’t be able to get there without them.”
There was also room for Chelsea’s midfielder Conor Gallagher, who was a surprise pick alongside the likes of Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham and Kalvin Phillips in midfield.