Jose Mourinho has justified Gareth Southgate’s decision to bring Jordan Henderson to the European Championships, despite fitness concerns, due to his importance to the international squad.
The Liverpool captain had been ruled out for the domestic season following an injury sustained in the Merseyside derby in February, though mounted a surprise return to fitness for the international competition.
“They [Belgium] did very well on trusting players with less part of the season with problems,” the former Spurs boss told TalkSPORT (via HITC).
“Hazard was injured and not fit, Kevin [De Bruyne] had a problem in the Champions League final, Witsel was injured for a long period of the season. But Martinez knows how good they are.
“Like Gareth took Maguire and Henderson with injuries.
“These are players who are so good, and so important, and they are so fundamental that in a group of 26 players it is not a problem to take players who are not in top form or fit, but they can do it.
“Like Verratti for Italy too, you take them. You believe in them, and you take them.”
Taking into account his appearance on the bench for England’s opening group stage victory over Croatia last weekend – not to mention featuring in a prior friendly against Romania – there’s a good chance that the 30-year-old could be handed some minutes this evening.
Having observed Jurgen Klopp’s men without the No.14, who have looked, at times, rudderless, it’s not much of a leap to claim that the national side have similarly missed Henderson’s presence in the middle of the park.
That absence has been mitigated somewhat by Kalvin Phillips’ introduction into the starting lineup, with the Leeds United star wowing pundits and supporters alike with his work rate.
Given that the Champions League-winner’s influence extends beyond his playing ability, however, a return to the pitch by the end of the group stage would be particularly good news for Southgate and England’s hopes of going vaguely far in the tournament.