Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has hit back at Gareth Southgate, insisting the England boss was wrong to question his motivation to represent the Three Lions.
In the aftermath of England’s 2-0 World Cup qualification victory over Lithuania on Sunday, Southgate was adamant that he only wanted players in his squad who were desperate to feature for England.
He also spoke of his reluctance to coax dual-nationality players into representing his side and claimed there was a “disappearing egg timer” on Zaha opting to play for Ivory Coast.
Former Manchester United forward Zaha chose to play for the country of his birth in November, despite featuring in two friendly matches for England – the last against Scotland in 2013.
“Wilfried did not impose a timescale or set a date by which he had to be selected by England, there was no ‘disappearing egg timer’. The ‘private’ meeting with Mr Southgate was very amicable,” read a statement released through Zaha’s agent.
“However, the fact remains that Wilfried made his decision to play for the Ivory Coast prior to Mr Southgate being appointed interim and subsequently permanent England manager.
“It was Wilfried’s personal choice and it was his right as a senior player to accept the opportunity to represent his nation of birth and that of his family heritage.
“His ‘desire’ or ‘passion’ should never have been publicly questioned for making that decision. Wilfried is very proud of his family and very proud to represent Ivory Coast.”
Zaha netted a stunning solo goal for Ivory Coast in Friday’s friendly against Russia.