Italy and Juventus legend Giorgio Chiellini has leapt to the defence of under-fire Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire, claiming too much pressure has been placed on his shoulders.
Maguire, 29, has fallen out of favour with Erik ten Hag this season, with the Dutch coach dropping the club captain in favour of deploying Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane as his preferred centre-back partnership.
The £80m defender has become a source of frustration for Man Utd fans, and for some, emblematic of the club’s inconsistencies in recent seasons. But for England, he remains a first-team regular and someone whom Gareth Southgate can rely upon.
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He held the defensive fort for England at Euro 2020 last summer as the Three Lions reached the final, and even scored his penalty in the shoot-out defeat to Italy. Chiellini, who also started in that Wembley spectacle, has now thrown his weight behind his fellow centre-back.
Chiellini told The Times: “I am sad for Maguire’s situation because he is a good player. They require too much of him. Just because they paid £80million for him, he has to be the best in the world every match? It’s not right. The value of the market is dependent on many aspects you can’t control. It’s not your fault.
“Him and [John] Stones are a good duo. OK, Maguire maybe is not Rio Ferdinand but he’s good enough. With this situation it’s not helping [England] to do the best. If you want to win the World Cup, it’s impossible to do it with some problems in the key players, and for sure Maguire is one of the key players in the team.”
An accusation often levelled at Maguire is that he is too mistake-laden, with lapses in concentration putting needless pressure on Man Utd’s backline. Since the Sheffield-born defender moved to Old Trafford, only five outfield players have registered more errors leading to shots than him (five). He also ranks third for most yellow cards picked up in that time (27).
A vastly contrasting player to Martinez, time will tell whether Ten Hag can find room in his system for a player of Maguire’s qualities. Martinez typifies to possession-heavy brand that Ten Hag adopts, where composure on the ball is a prerequisite. As such, Maguire will have to eradicate those occasional mistakes in his game if he is to re-establish himself in the Man Utd XI.