Former Tottenham Hotspur head coach Jose Mourinho has questioned England manager Gareth Southgate’s decision to allow Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka to take the Three Lions’ decisive penalty in last night’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy at Wembley.
With the game having ended 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes of nail-biting tension, Saka was thwarted by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma from the spot in what proved to be England’s last kick of the ball at the tournament.
Needing to score to keep England’s hopes alive of sending it to sudden death, Saka saw his effort palmed away by the Italian shot-stopper before immediately breaking down in tears.
With more senior players on the pitch, such as Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson, many were surprised to see 19-year-old Saka, who had stepped off the bench in the second half to replace Kieran Trippier, step up.
And that was the view shared by Roma boss Mourinho, who has admitted that he did not understand where the likes of John Stones or Sterling were when it came to deciding on the Three Lions’ takers.
“The decision of the penalty talkers, I think it is hard to leave Saka as the last one,” Mourinho told talkSPORT. “I think it is hard for a kid to have everything on his shoulders at that moment. I just feel very sorry for him.
“In this situation where was Sterling, where was Stones, where was (Luke) Shaw?
“I feel that Gareth is such an honest guy. Such a protective coach of his players. I don’t think he would ever say players were not ready (to take a penalty).”
After the match, England chief Southgate shouldered the blame for his side’s penalty heartache, but insisted Saka took one because he had liked what he had seen from him when practising penalties on the training pitch.
Get the latest Arsenal transfer news straight to your inbox
The summer window is officially open, and it’s going to be tough to keep up with the comings and goings in and out of the Emirates.
By signing up to our newsletter here, you’ll be kept up to date on the latest news and rumours as they break, all in one place. You’ll also receive exclusive insight and articles from club writers Chris Wheatley and Kaya Kaynak, all for free.
We also want to hear from you. Create an account here in just a few moments, so you can have your say on all things Arsenal, join the debate and take part in exclusive Q&As as well.
Southgate said: “It is down to me,” said Southgate of the penalty misses.
“I decided on the penalty-takers based on what they have done in training.
“Nobody is on their own. We have won together as a team and it is on all of us together to not be able to win this game.
“In terms of penalties, it is my call and it totally rests with me.”