England manager Gareth Southgate has fired a warning to Manchester United's Harry Maguire and Manchester City's Kalvin Phillips that their lack of game time at club level could eventually impact their chances of future national team call-ups.
Having played key roles in England's run to the Euro 2020 final, Maguire and Phillips have retained the trust of Southgate and were included in the Three Lions' 25-man squad for June's Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
However, both players have only had bit-part roles for their respective teams in the current season, with Maguire being relegated to the bench at Old Trafford under Erik ten Hag.
The 30-year-old was briefly offered a route back into the team when Martinez and Varane sustained serious injuries against Sevilla in the Europa League last month, but Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw have since been preferred in the heart of defence.
Meanwhile, Phillips's debut season at Man City has not gone according to plan, as the 27-year-old has made just 20 appearances in all competitions, thanks in no small part to a shoulder injury.
While Maguire and Phillips controversially remain in Southgate's good books for the time being, the England boss has conceded that he will have a decision to make if both men remain on the fringes of their club teams.
"Inevitably it's not a situation that can continue forever," Southgate told a press conference when questioned on Maguire's predicament. "It's like Kalvin Phillips. They are important players for us and with Kalvin we haven't got many players who can play as that single pivot.
"Of course the longer that situation goes on the more concerning it is and we've got, in Marc Guehi, Lewis Dunk, Tyrone Mings, players who are playing well without the same experiences of club European football or international football. But we've got to keep searching for competition in that area of the pitch."
Maguire, who is under contract at Man United until 2025, is reportedly fearful that he may have to leave the Red Devils this summer in order to benefit his chances of a call-up to Euro 2024 if England qualify.
Meanwhile, Phillips is believed to be on the radar of West Ham United as the Hammers prepare for life without Declan Rice, but the ex-Leeds United man apparently has no plans to leave Man City as he fights for his place in the starting lineup.
With Maguire still being backed by Southgate, there was no space in the squad for Arsenal's Ben White or Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier, as Brighton & Hove Albion's Dunk also earned his first call-up in five years.
Rice, Phillips, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham and Conor Gallagher form a recognisable midfield selection, but there was also a maiden call-up for Crystal Palace's Eberechi Eze, as Chelsea's Mason Mount misses out through injury alongside Raheem Sterling.
England defeated reigning champions Italy and Ukraine in March's opening Euro 2024 qualifiers to sit top of Group C, and the Three Lions travel to Malta on June 16 before hosting North Macedonia at Old Trafford three days later.