John Barnes has claimed that Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips and West Ham ace Declan Rice have been England’s “two most important players” at this summer’s Euro 2020.
The duo have started all six of the Three Lions’ matches so far, and put in another stellar display in Wednesday night’s dramatic semi-final victory over Denmark at Wembley.
Phillips in particular has clocked up 67.3km during his six games for Gareth Southgate's men over the course of the tournament, seven kilometres more than any of his team-mates.
And despite heroics from the likes of Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, former England icon Barnes has argued that he and Rice have established themselves as their side’s two most significant influences.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “Harry Kane has now come and scored the goals, in terms of getting us where we are, he carried that biggest threat.
“But I’ve said all along, the two most important players for England in this tournament have been Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips.
“You talk about those two, and people talking about not playing two holding midfielders, ‘do we need that?’.
“But they’ve protected the back four, we’ve only conceded one goal, and as much as you look at the defence, the work they have done in protecting them and giving England the balance of having four attacking players; Mason Mount, Harry Kane, Sterling and [Phil] Foden, [Jack] Grealish or [Bukayo] Saka.
“Those two give them that base and that balance that I don’t think we’ve ever had.”