Gareth Southgate has revealed that Raheem Sterling will not be considered for the England U21's squad for the European Championships this summer.
Rumours have been spread that Southgate is looking to pick his strongest squad available for the tournament in the Czech Republic as the Three Lions look to win the competition for the first time since 1984.
The full England side has featured top talents such as Sterling, Ross Barkley and Harry Kane in recent months and the two latter names are still in the running to represent their country at their age-bracket.
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However, Southgate - who guided his side to a 3-2 win over Germany Under-21's earlier this week - believes that Sterling has become a valuable member of the senior team and will not consider taking the Liverpool forward to Eastern Europe.
“There is a bit of it being about what is right for the development of the player, whether we think it is an experience that will benefit them,” the former Middlesbrough boss told to BBC Radio 5 Live.
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“Then there is whether there is a connection with the rest of the group, what the dynamic of the team is, it depends on whether we see them at first-team level.
"An example would be Raheem Sterling who we now feel is an established international and other countries have similar situations like that.
“Germany have [Julian] Draxler for example who could play, but will now be with their seniors for certain. In France, [Paul] Pogba is eligible at that age group, but he’s moved through that, every country has similar scenarios with their very top players and we’ll make a judgement call on each of those.”
At just 20-years-old, Sterling more than qualifies to appear at this summer's tournament and would be an asset for Southgate to have on board. However, the former QPR man has played a lot of games this season and he could well easily suffer from burnout if he was selected for the competition.
Michael Owen emerged into the England ranks at just 18 and set the world on fire when he scored a superb individual goal against Argentina at World Cup 1998. After a few more successful seasons being the pinnacle of both Liverpool and England sides, the minutes clocked up soon caught up with Owen and the next seven years of his career were plagued with injury.
Sterling could too run the risk of something similar if he represented England U21's this summer. He was a significant member of Roy Hodgson's side last summer in Brazil, has continued since, scoring in England's 4-0 win against Lithuania last Friday, and did not get an awful lot of time off between the World Cup and returning to Liverpool for pre-season.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers would certainly not approve of Sterling playing in Czech Republic in a few months. The Northern Irishman has already given the playmaker a week off between Christmas and New Year this term and will be keen for Sterling to have a good, long summer break.
One In, One Out
A perfect replacement for Sterling could be his Liverpool team-mate Jordan Ibe. Ibe has been top-class over the past year whilst on loan at Birmingham City and Derby County before returning to the Merseyside club and being even more impressive.
The 19-year-old is a similar player to Sterling; they are both blessed with extreme pace who flourish when running at defenders and create chances for their side. Ibe would be an excellent replacement for his team-mate and Southgate would be ignorant if he did not consider the former Wycombe Wanders winger.