Danny Drinkwater's England future could be in doubt after declining a late international invite this week, with manager Gareth Southgate uncertain if he will call upon the injury-plagued Chelsea midfielder again when preparations for the 2018 World Cup ramp up with another round of high-profile friendlies in March.
With the likes of Adam Lallana unavailable, Jack Wilshere not playing regularly enough at club level and injured quartet Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Harry Winks and Fabian Delph among a total of seven withdrawals, Southgate revealed on Thursday (9 November) that he contacted Drinkwater over a potential role in matches against Germany and Brazil only to be told that he did not feel that he was fit enough to play.
The 27-year-old, who earned the last of his three senior caps against Australia last May and was cut from Roy Hodgson's provisional squad for Euro 2016, has now been unable to take part in three successive England camps and it remains to be seen if his window of opportunity has now closed. The Three Lions' lack of resources will see the give a debut to Ruben Loftus-Cheek alongside Jake Livermore, while uncapped Burnley midfielder Jack Cork may also feature.
"I've no idea," Southgate told reporters when asked if Drinkwater would be called up when the next international break rolls around. "I can't hypothesise over who I might be calling in March. I have no idea of how he feels or where he's at physically. I would have thought so, but we might have other players back by then."
Southgate said that he understood why Drinkwater may not feel ready for a return to international football given that a calf problem has restricted the ex-Manchester United trainee to only one solitary start and three substitute appearances since he joined Chelsea in a £35m ($46m) deal on summer deadline day. He also missed the end of last season with a thigh strain and was not able to feature for Leicester City in the early weeks of the 2017-18 campaign because of a groin injury.
The England boss added that he thought it would be "worth finding out where Drinkwater was" with regards to his fitness and also insisted he would "back individual players to know where they are physically in terms of what they are capable of".
According to the Evening Standard, Drinkwater remains determined to play for England and hopes to feature in potentially defining friendlies against Italy and the Netherlands in the spring.
The same publication reports that the player aggravated that aforementioned calf complaint again last weekend after replacing Cesc Fabregas for the final 11 minutes of a 1-0 Premier League win over United at Stamford Bridge.
Drinkwater is reported to be receiving treatment and participating in light training at Cobham during the international break with the hope of being available for the trip to West Bromwich Albion on 18 November.