Jamie Jackson on 15 March 2019
Pep Guardiola has urged England to allow John Stones not to report for duty, saying the Manchester City defender is unfit for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro.
Stones was included in Gareth Southgate’s squad after being named on the bench for City’s Champions League win over Schalke on Tuesday but he has not played since being substituted at Bournemouth two weeks ago with a groin injury.
England have the right to examine Stones but Guardiola said: “Hopefully he will not go. He is not ready to play, he is injured. Stones made an effort in the last two days before the Schalke game; he was not good. We made a test today [Friday] and he doesn’t feel good, and that’s why he hasn’t trained with us for the past two days.”
Guardiola said he may call someone from the England setup to make his case. Stones’s withdrawal would be a setback for Southgate, who had been expected to play him and Harry Maguire in central defence. James Tarkowski and Michael Keane are the other recognised centre-backs in the squad but Southgate could deploy Eric Dier there, which would increase the likelihood of Declan Rice making his debut in midfield.
Guardiola was more relaxed over the threat of a transfer ban from Fifa, saying City’s squad are so strong the club could cope without being able sign players.
City are under investigation from world football’s governing body for alleged malpractice regarding the signing of youth players and third-party ownership. They deny wrongdoing and the investigation is expected to be completed next month.
If City are found guilty they could be blocked from acquiring players for two windows, as Chelsea were last month. Yet Guardiola said he would not be worried should this occur: “Of course I’d be OK. It’s [the squad] good, really good.”