When Gareth Southgate reconvened his England squad this week ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo he did so without one notable absentee: Jamie Vardy.
With two goals for Leicester against Bournemouth on Saturday, Vardy took his tally to 12 in his last 14 Premier League appearances and underlined his claim to be the country’s most in-form goalscorer.
The reason that he is not at St George’s Park with the rest of the Three Lions squad is partly because he took the controversial decision to step back from international football 13 months ago.
Some players decide that they need to do that in order to extend their careers for as long as possible – and you can understand that. Paul Scholes is another who called time early on England duty.
For those who don’t have time off during the international breaks, the season can be relentless; 11 months of back-to-back football. It’s up to the individual to judge what they can physically handle.
Nowadays there is so much monitoring of players’ conditions that they have a better insight than ever into how far they can realistically push it without losing something, such as a yard of pace, from their game.
At a certain point in their career players will realise they are no longer improving and ask themselves how they can at least maintain their current level. The best way is not to overplay.
I don’t think that’s a selfish decision. In many ways it is just being realistic.
Would Vardy get in anyway?
Whether Southgate would select Vardy if he made himself available is another matter, though. Personally, I don’t think he would.
Southgate has consistently named squads geared towards the evolution of his team and no one is going to get in the way of that. Just ask Kyle Walker, who has been omitted for this double-header.
I don’t see Southgate going down the route of picking players who can do a job at a certain level.
Vardy has done OK for his country, with seven goals in 26 appearances, but the England coach wants to find that next level. Is Vardy going to deliver that?
Now, Vardy is having a very good spell at Leicester and you do want to see players rewarded for good form. England have always done that, so it is a shame in that sense that he is not involved.
But with qualification for next year’s European Championships nigh-on guaranteed, the six games between now and the end of the year represent a great opportunity for Southgate.
Tournament football is a different kettle of fish to qualifying so the more exposure he can give to new players in the coming months could do them real good next summer.
Southgate’s challenge is to keep looking forward without going too far. For Vardy and England, though, it feels like the current situation suits all parties.
The more that new waves of players are introduced to the England set-up, the more I think we may see others following in Vardy’s footsteps and considering their international future.
You don’t want to see regulars calling time but some – perhaps like Walker, although he has apparently received some assurances about his place – will inevitably start to look at things differently.
Main image credit: Getty