England manager Gareth Southgate has confessed that he does not expect to be able to play Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham in March’s World Cup qualifiers because of the German side’s travel ban.
German health officials introduced a new rule late on Tuesday ruling that any players from the region of North Rhine Westphalia, where Dortmund are based, would be forced to isolate for 14 days upon their return if they left to join up with their squads during the international break.
As a result, Dortmund have blocked their players from travelling overseas as they would be forced to miss at least two Bundesliga games – they play Frankfurt on 3 April and Stuttgart on 10 April – and that’s obviously not ideal for a side looking to claw their way back into the Champions League spots.
Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho was already unavailable for these fixtures after picking up a muscle injury, but Southgate has still opted to call Bellingham up to the squad, despite the German side’s warning.
“At this moment in time, it looks as though we wont be able to take him,” Southgate said. “The quarantine rules in Germany look like will rule him out.
“But as we’re seeing, those rules can change so quickly, and while we’re still investigating what’s possible, we wanted to name him in the squad. We’ve got a really good relationship with Dortmund, so there are no issues between us and the club. I’ve explained to Jude that we’re leaving him in, but we know it’s looking doubtful at this moment in time.”
One option under consideration was to keep Bellingham in the squad purely for the away trip to Albania, which is not on Germany’s no-fly list, but the fact he would be linking up with players from all over the globe means that idea did not go far.
Bellingham made his England debut back in November, becoming the third youngest player in the country’s history when he replaced Mason Mount in a 3-0 friendly victory over the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.
Since then, he has enjoyed some fantastic showings for Dortmund, including his dominant performance in the Champions League last 16 against Sevilla, but the travel restriction means he will not be able to build on that momentum with England.
In his place, Southgate will still be able to call on Phil Foden, Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice or James Ward-Prowse, and he may even call up a replacement if Bellingham is ruled out altogether.