Jamie Vardy to focus solely on his club football
Leicester striker (32) will return to England squad only if there’s a major injury crisis
Jamie Vardy will focus on his Leicester career after calling it a day with England. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
The Leicester striker, who turns 32 in January, says that a number of factors have influenced his decision, including his age and a desire to spend more time with his family, after accepting he is unlikely to feature much for England even if he remains part of the squad.
Vardy, who has won 26 caps and been in every England squad since his first call-up in May 2015, spoke to Southgate just before returning from the World Cup finals in Russia, to explain that he was thinking of stepping aside. He confirmed that was still his intention during a telephone conversation with Southgate a fortnight ago, when the England manager wondered whether Vardy might have changed his mind before next month’s fixtures against Spain and Switzerland.
Southgate told Vardy he felt the striker “still had a lot to offer” at international level but the manager also understood the thinking behind the player’s decision. With England not exactly blessed with striking options, Southgate and Vardy have agreed to “not shut the door completely”, although he would return only if there were a major injury crisis.
“To be honest with you, this has been on my mind for a while,” Vardy told the Guardian. “I’m not getting any younger and you can see, to be fair to the gaffer, he wants to make it more youthful, which obviously had its benefits during the World Cup – we got to the semi-finals and finished fourth, which is equal to the furthest we have ever been on foreign soil. So I just said to Gareth that I think it’s probably best from now on, especially with the way he wants to go, to bring youngsters in who he thinks have got the ability and start nurturing them into international football.”
Asked whether the prospect of travelling with England but not playing much had influenced his decision, Vardy replied: “Yeah, I think that had an impact. When you get selected, you want to be playing. If you’re playing week in, week out for your club, you want to be going to England to play as well. And if it’s not happening, then for me personally now, at this age, it’s better to be at home, spending that time with my family and training with my club, preparing for the next game after the international break.”
Vardy added: “I explained it all to Gareth and he was fine with my decision. I mentioned it to him after the World Cup had finished, out in Russia, and then I spoke to him on the phone a couple of weeks ago. He let it die down a bit, so that I could have a bit more time to think, and then rang me up just to make sure I wasn’t just taking the mickey in Russia. But I hadn’t changed my mind. Gareth said that he felt I still had a lot to offer, and we’ve not shut the door completely. If the worst came to happen and everyone was injured, then obviously I wouldn’t say no.”
Vardy speaks highly of Southgate, describing him as “brilliant” and praising him for helping to create the togetherness that made England “feel like a club environment”, although he admitted he was frustrated not to play more at the World Cup, especially in the semi-final against Croatia, when he only got on for the last eight minutes of extra time. “I thought I could have helped a bit more if I had more minutes,” Vardy said. “You know that you can hurt opponents in certain ways, in the way you play. But it wasn’t to be. And you have to respect the manager’s decisions.”
Meanwhile, Gary Cahill has revealed he spoke with Southgate after the World Cup and indicated that, after eight years and 61 caps, he felt the time had come to concentrate on club football. The 32-year-old centre-half is aiming to break back into the Chelsea side under Maurizio Sarri.
“In terms of my international future, I think it is time I take a step back and now I feel that is the right moment,” he told Chelsea TV. “I have been hugely proud in terms of what I have achieved, in terms of over 60 caps and I have captained my country on a few occasions, which has been a huge honour and something I have been really proud of in my career.
“Three major tournaments and it should have been four. So I have played pretty solidly over the years I have been involved. I have been hugely honoured to have played for my country and I would never shut the door if I was needed in the future.”