Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka returned to the England starting line-up for the Euro 2020 semi-final versus Denmark, drawing lavish praise from Gary Neville and Ian Wright before kick-off
Gary Neville aimed a thinly-veiled jibe at Arsenal while heaping praise on Bukayo Saka ahead of England’s clash with Denmark.
Saka, 19, returned to the Three Lions’ starting line-up for their Euro 2020 semi-final after recovering from the minor knock which saw him miss the 4-0 quarter-final victory over Ukraine.
The versatile Gunners star has been hugely impressive when handed minutes at the tournament, replicating his brilliant form at club level for his country.
Neville was keen to highlight Saka’s quality as well as Gareth Southgate’s refreshing approach to selecting players to represent England – but he couldn’t help but take a dig at Arsenal while doing so.
Discussing Saka while on punditry duty for ITV Sport , the former Manchester United and Three Lions defender suggested Arsenal are not a “fashionable club”.
“It’s a massive achievement, it’s been typical of Gareth’s reign,” said Neville of Saka’s record-breaking start against Denmark.
“He’s ripped up the rulebook, you don’t have to be at a fashionable club, a Champions League club, you don’t even have to be the most popular with the media or fans.
“If you’re in form in training and doing it for him, he’ll pick you for a game, and that’s working out for him because the lads who are out on the pitch are in the best form.
“Saka’s been electric in every game he’s played. I was happy he rested him on Saturday, it would have been too much for him, but tonight he should be absolutely flying.”
Arsenal finished eighth in the Premier League last season and will not be competing in Europe next campaign, but that has not detracted from how highly rated Saka is.
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“The fact is, we’re talking about someone who joined Arsenal’s academy when he was like seven,” said Neville’s co-pundit Ian Wright.
“He’s progressed through, at 17 he went into the under 23s, he’s always played at a high level. He’s played for England since under 16s, he’s played at every level, he’s someone who hasn’t just arrived here.
“He was destined to do what he’s doing, playing big games like this. That’s why everyone at Arsenal knows what he’s capable of, and we’re seeing that now.”
Meanwhile, Southgate explained why he started Saka ahead of Jadon Sancho as he spoke to reporters before the match.
“What he’s done in previous matches, he’s really embraced that challenge,” said the England boss of Saka.
“We were really pleased with Jadon at the weekend. Everyone knows we have fantastic options in those areas, but we felt for the balance for tonight that tonight he was the best choice.”