England are not producing playmakers of the Luka Modric and Andrea Pirlo mould, says Gary Neville, with Manchester United legend Paul Scholes the last man to fill that role.
The Three Lions were able to reach the semi-final stage at the 2018 World Cup, before coming unstuck against Modric’s Croatia, and are looking to build for the future with exciting young talent.
Gareth Southgate has added the likes of Mason Mount and James Maddison to his Nations League plans, while Manchester City starlet Phil Foden is expected to make a senior breakthrough at some stage.
Neville is, however, concerned that England continue to generate tidy midfielders rather than classy ones, with a creative spark having been missing since Scholes announced his international retirement in 2004.
“The fact is that Modric is the best player in the world officially now and we just lacked that composure, the guile and that know-how that I think a couple of that Croatia team have in [Mario] Mandzukic, [Ivan] Rakitic, [Luka] Modric and [Ivan] Perisic – they’ve played in Champions League finals and been around the block in the highest quality games and that’s what England are just lacking at the moment,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“I don’t think England are producing players that know how to control a game. I’ve always said Paul Scholes is the best player I’ve ever played with and most players who’ve played with him say the same – in fact, a lot of the players who’ve played against him say the same.
“He did something that none of the rest could do and that’s control the tempo of a football match and when we talk about England not controlling a game, that’s the thing the likes of Pirlo, Modric, Xabi Alonso and Xavi can do – they’re the type of players you need at international level if you want to control games.
“If you look at England’s players coming through, there’s a lack of understanding about what controlling a game is and that can really influence the tempo of a match and make a game move at the pace they want it to.
“It’s about when to play long and when to play short and our players don’t seem to be able to know how to dictate the pace of games at international level. My view is that it’s a talent that just doesn’t really exist in this country.”
England will be back in action against Croatia on Friday, before taking in another meeting with Spain and their abundance of ball-playing talent in Seville on Monday.