The disappointment was all but eliminated after the European Championship elimination. National team coach Roberto Martinez sees no reason to suspend some of the older Red Devils after the quarter-final elimination.
One of the questions was after the loss to the later winner Italy. With players such as Vermaelen (35), Vertonghen (34), Mertens (34) and even Alderweireld (32), Shadley (32) and Witsel 32), a generation is coming to an end. It has already been a year and a half since the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But national team coach Roberto Martinez has no intention of giving up his thirties. “The players you are talking about are still doing very well. They are still at their peak and they know exactly what the culture of the Red Devils is now. If you saw the performance of Thomas Vermaelen in the European Championship, it was impressive. If a young player like Zinho Vanheusden could train with Vermaelen In the Red Devils, he’ll make progress anyway.”
Martinez doesn’t want to burden the kids with too much pressure. “We’re still number one in the world. By acting tough now, we’re going to put all the pressure on these young players. It’s not fair. It’s not their age that will keep players out of the squad, that’s what performance on the field will do.”
Alderweireld made a sudden move. The international exchanged Tottenham, 113 times, in the English Premier League for Al Duhail of Qatar. A serious step back. “I’m not worried about Toby,” Martinez said. “I have seen the courses and they are at a high level. This Portuguese coach works very professionally. Toby was ready to play an important role in the team. He will now only play one game a week. I was a bit skeptical at first, but now that I have seen the project – The World Cup in Qatar too – I’m convinced he made the right decision. It’s been thought through.”
This does not mean that young players who did not participate in the European Championship should not rely on their selection for the World Cup with the upcoming treble against Estonia, the Czech Republic and Belarus. It is expected that Vanheusden, Verchareren, Di Kitilari and Sambi Lukonga will participate in the expanded squad.
Martinez says he is now also working on another future. Amadou Onana (20, Lille, midfielder), Elliot Matazzo (19, Monaco, midfielder) and Kone De Winter (19, Juventus, defender) follow closely. “We have been working on the 2026 generation for three years now, a generation that should replace this golden generation. But these young people can mature better with experienced players by their side.”
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