Gareth Southgate has suggested he could stay with England until the 2026 World Cup amid his excitement over a new golden generation featuring Jude Bellingham.
The nation’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey has ruled out any decision before the summer, however, saying his “sole focus” is to win the European Championship this summer.
Southgate is under contract until December but, speaking at the UEFA Nations League final in Paris on Thursday, he was as candid as ever in suggesting he could still be waiting for a fifth major tournament.
“You have to see how the summer goes – it’s as simple as that,” he said ahead of Germany 2024, where England are among the favourites. “I think I know what we can achieve in the summer. I know what my own success benchmark is. After that I’m not really thinking about anything else right now.”
A crop of world-envious young talent at Southgate’s disposal will no doubt be a key factor in his decision this summer. Asked if Bellingham could be the best player in the world in the coming years, Southgate said: “It’s definitely great to take the team. It was always exciting to take on the team, no matter how strong the squad. In the end, we have to deliver performance, and you really have to make the best decisions for everyone. I won’t be able to make that decision before the competition.”
At the Nations Championship, England faced the Republic of Ireland in the first competitive meeting between the two nations since 1991. Euro 2004 winners Greece and Finland are also in Group B2 for the autumn games.
Asked if he would still be in charge of England for those games, Southgate said: “I think there are probably 55 coaches and half of the coaches might not be here after the Euros. That’s international football.
“You’ve got to keep winning football games, and then make decisions so I’m completely comfortable with that. All my focus is on delivering the best championship possible this summer. We’ve always put this period in afterwards to reflect on things and make the best possible decisions for England.”
There was speculation about Southgate’s future before the previous World Cup in Qatar. Southgate only made up his mind to stay in the days following the team’s quarter-final win over France.
Southgate confirmed he will adopt the same philosophy this summer. “If we had done anything before, it would have been detrimental to the performance of the summer, whichever way your decision was made,” he said. “I think our focus in the summer is, from a personal point of view, you’re fully invested in what happens and I think that’s how it should be.”
He added that his only focus is to try and win the tournament for England.
Southgate was positive about England players abroad, having flown out last weekend to watch Jordan Henderson at Ajax and Bellingham play for Real Madrid.
“It’s easier to assess someone playing in a European league,” Southgate said. “For him, I think he’ll be excited about the game the other night, it’s a real derby atmosphere and he’s playing in a game where the club are really happy to have him there first, he’s got a warm welcome and a big welcome . , I’m sure right now that will mean a lot to him.”
He said Bellingham, however, had been “impressive” with his form. “We know he can adapt to anything,” Southgate said. “Obviously they used him in a more advanced role. I think the few that any of us saw was the number of goals he scored… I know the club is very happy with him.”
While Bellingham is almost certain, if fit, to secure his place at the Euros this summer, Southgate will use the time between now and the start of the tournament in June to improve the most uncertain areas of his selection.
Southgate will name his final squad ahead of next month’s summer European Championships for England’s international friendlies against Brazil and Belgium at Wembley.
“At the moment we are thinking about every part of our game, how we can improve it,” he said.
“We’re looking at probably the whole squad in these last few minutes, more of the guys on the edge, a little more focus on that, whether that’s live, whether that’s video, whether that’s analysis details it, a lot of preparation behind the. scenes at the camp, how everything will run, as you would expect, you know, that’s all going on behind the scenes.”