While it seems that England’s talent pool is getting smaller and smaller ahead of the World Cup in Russia this summer, other ‘top’ countries have a wealth of options by comparison. So much so that big names one might expect to be at the tournament won’t make the cut.
Here’s a look at nine big name stars that probably won’t be at the World Cup…
9. Renato Sanches (Portugal)
Two years on from announcing himself to the world as part of Portugal’s Euro 2016 winning squad with confident performances that defied his tender age, Renato Sanches is a fringe player at best heading into the World Cup.
The 20-year-old’s club career has taken a nose dive after things turned sour at Bayern Munich, something not yet rectified by a mixed loan spell at Swansea.
He missed out on the Confederations Cup last summer and hasn’t been called up since October.
8. Aymeric Laporte (France/Spain)
Aymeric Laporte’s high profile £57m move to Manchester City in January, as a result of which he became the second most expensive defender of all time behind only Virgil van Dijk, doesn’t look as if it will propel him into France’s World Cup squad.
The 23-year-old, who has been called up before but it yet to actually play, has been left out this month and is unlikely to play enough club games between now and the end of the season to justify his selection. He remains eligible for Spain, but a call-up there is even less likely.
7. Cesc Fabregas (Spain)
It is highly unlikely that Cesc Fabregas will get the chance to add to his Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and 2010 World Cup honours at this summer’s tournament in Russia after being out of the international picture for Spain since Euro 2016.
After struggling to command a regular place at Chelsea last season, the midfielder, who has been to every major tournament with Spain since the 2006 World Cup, has started more often this season. But La Roja coach Julen Lopetegui still prefers younger options, such as Koke and Saul Niguez, instead.
6. Nani (Portugal)
With 112 appearances for his country since 2006, Nani is the third most capped Portuguese player of all time behind only Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. He was a member of the Euro 2016 winning squad, but hasn’t been selected since last summer’s Confederations Cup.
The former Manchester United winger, now 31 years of age, has been playing his club football on loan at Lazio from Valencia this season. However, an injury hit campaign has seen him start just six times in all competitions, while Portugal are looking to younger attacking talent.
5. Alvaro Morata (Spain)
Alvaro Morata has a fine international strike rate of 13 goals in 23 senior appearances for Spain since 2014, but his struggles at club level combined with the form of others has left his World Cup place in some doubt.
Morata has hit a wall following his £60m summer move from Real Madrid to Chelsea and is far from at his best form. He was left out of the Spain squad this month, with Diego Costa returning to the fold and Iago Aspas, Rodrigo and Lucas Vazquez all providing stiff competition.
4. Luan (Brazil)
Luan was an Olympic gold medalist alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus in 2016, won the Copa Libertadores with Gremio last year and is widely regarded as one of the world’s best players outside Europe, but his international career is yet to take off.
25 years old this month, the forward has only two senior caps to his name and isn’t part of this month’s squad. Even with Neymar currently injured, the competition for places in the final 23-man group coach Tite will take to Russia is immense.
3. Karim Benzema (France)
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been in the international wilderness since 2015 when he became embroiled in a blackmail scandal over an alleged sex tape involving France colleague Mathieu Valbuena.
Although never particularly consistent at international level, Benzema scored three goals at the last World Cup in 2014. With France holding an incredibly deep pool of young attacking talent, even a desperate late phone call from Didier Deschamps is extremely unlikely to come.
2. Mario Gotze (Germany)
Mario Gotze became a German national hero and wrote his name in World Cup history four years ago when he scored the only goal deep into extra-time in the final against Argentina to hand his country the trophy, a first since the national team was reunified in late 1990.
However, the world already conquered at such a young age, his career has stalled badly since then.
A disappointing spell at Bayern Munich ended in 2016, only for a metabolic illness to keep the player out for several months in his first year back at Borussia Dortmund. The 2017/8 season has also been stop-start due to injuries.
1. Mauro Icardi (Argentina)
For years there were heavily denied rumours that Lionel Messi was behind Mauro Icardi’s continued exclusion from the Argentina national team as a result of the Barcelona star’s friendship with former teammate Maxi Lopez, whose ex-wife is now married to Icardi after an affair while both players were at Sampdoria together.
Icardi was slated in the Argentine press (and by national hero Diego Maradona) at the time and even after his club form for Inter merited a long awaited recall last year, the striker still hasn’t really secured his place.
He was left out again for this month’s friendlies, despite a four-goal performance against Sampdoria, and the competition up top for Jorge Sampaoli’s side is about as fierce as it gets with Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Sergio Aguero, Lautaro Martinez and Cristian Pavon among those vying for places alongside the one shoo-in, Messi.