England managers have spent years trying to “shoehorn” all their best players into their starting line-up.

And Gareth Southgate is convinced that he can get Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden into his team for the Euros this summer. Bellingham, 20, has just won the Champions League and been Real Madrid ’s standout player in his first season since moving to the Bernabeu. His 20 goals also earned him the vote as La Liga ’s Player of the Year.

Foden, 24, helped Manchester City to their fourth consecutive title, scored 19 league goals while he scooped two Footballer of the Year awards from the Football Writers’ Association and also the Premier League.

But both players have been at their best when in the middle and Foden has made it very clear that is where he sees himself while leaving out Bellingham would also be unthinkable.

It has left England fans worried they might not see the best of one or both of them at the Euros this summer as Southgate tries to find a winning formula. It brings back memories of England’s Golden Generation in the 2000s when Sven Goran Eriksson struggled to make the Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard midfield combination work.

Paul Scholes quit international football at 29 because he often found himself shifted out to the left wing as England struggled to get the best out of three of the best midfielders they have ever had.

The midfield puzzle could be Southgate’s biggest problem of all. It is unlikely that the England boss would pick Declan Rice as the No6 and use Bellingham and Foden either side of him as dual No8s which is a growing tactical trend among some Premier League bosses.

Much more likely is Southgate using a 4-2-3-1 system with Bellingham as a No10 and Foden playing from the left which worked to good effect when England drew with Belgium in March.

Foden and Bellingham remain central to England's Euro 2024 hopes (
Image:
Getty Images)

That may not please Foden but Southgate believes that he will end up changing his team through the Euros rather than be stuck with just one starting XI and formation.

Bellingham will only join up with the England squad at the end of this week after getting an extra week’s rest after the Champions League success and Southgate admits getting them to work together is vital.

Southgate said: “Definitely. Jude's obviously playing the season very high up the pitch for Madrid. Defensively a bit of a mix.

“What he hasn't done is played as a 6. Or as a lower 8. It's a while since he's done that and we've got to bear that in mind when we're thinking of trying to do something in the space of four or five days.

Gareth Southgate looks likely to shift Foden out on the left for England (
Image:
Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

“All these bits have to fit together and, equally, we need strength in depth. We need people to come into the games. So it's not about us shoehorning in as many players as we can.

“These games now, with changes that you make, there's a different aspect to it with five subs. We're going to need to make changes because physically the players aren't all in the place we'd ideally have them. And that is something that we have. We do have that depth.

“Also, there’s where they start and where you want them to end up. And where you want them to end up is inside the pitch. That's the key.

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“In the way Jude was defending on the left for Madrid, he wasn't stuck out on the left. And I think that's how the modern game is, isn't it? Everybody with the ball is in a completely different...

“You write a formation down but you're never in it with or without the ball really. So it just helps for the team-sheet.”

Bellingham and Foden have arguably been the best two English players this season - closely followed by Harry Kane after his goal haul - but helping them reproduce that in the Three Lions shirt will be Southgate’s biggest challenge.