Gareth Southgate has insisted the door isn't closed for Raheem Sterling after leaving him out of England's 25-player squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
Sterling last played for England at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, coming on as a late substitute in the 2-1 quarter-final defeat to France.
The 28-year-old struggled to find any real form at Chelsea after moving from Manchester City in a deal worth £50m, but the 2023/24 campaign has begun more promisingly for both the player and the club.
But Sterling has again been overlooked by Southgate because of the fierce competition for places in England's front line, and the Three Lions boss admitted to the media that it was impossible to leave anybody else out of the squad in favour of picking Sterling.
"The door is 100% open not only for Raheem but for other players. There's no doubt about that," Southgate said. "We don't need to know about his quality, his personality. He is a crucial part of why we've had the journey we've had over the last few years.
"I can only repeat what I've said in the last few squad selection meetings. The team are playing really well.
"We had an exceptional win against Italy last time around. Who do we leave out to put him in? It is as simple as that really.
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Southgate pointed to England's strong performances in March and June, when Sterling was unavailable for selection, as reasons for his ongoing omission, adding there's other players who have come onto the radar to add a different dynamic.
"He wasn't available in March or June and the team started on a good run. We won in Italy for the first time in 60 years, the two performances in June were excellent, so we stuck with that group," Southgate remarked.
"There is no question Raheem is looking dangerous for his club, he looks invigorated since the start of the season. (But) that is an area of the pitch where we've probably got as much competition for places as anywhere.
"You look and Jarrod Bowen has got seven goals this season already, Anthony Gordon is playing very well at Newcastle, Cole Palmer is starting to play well. It is just a change in landscape there."