England manager Gareth Southgate closing in on a new four-year deal

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Gareth Southgate is closing in on a new four-year deal ahead of naming the squad for England’s Nations League double-header against Croatia and Spain.

The 48-year-old has been in negotiations with the Football Association over an extended stay after leading the Three Lions to the World Cup semi-finals in the summer.

The run to the final four in Russia increased the clamour for Southgate to sign a new deal and it is understood an improved contract until the 2022 World Cup is close to being wrapped up.

The FA could even tie up the deal before Thursday’s press conference at St George’s Park, where the manager will name his squad for October’s back-to-back Nations League away trips.

England will face Croatia behind closed doors in Rijeka on October 12, when the World Cup finalists will complete a stadium ban handed down after having a swastika on their pitch in 2015.

Southgate’s men then travel on to Seville to take on Spain, who won 2-1 at Wembley in England’s first Nations League match last month.

England were beaten by Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals.

England were beaten by Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals.

Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard started that match, but both have question marks over their availability ahead of the squad announcement at 14:00 on Thursday.

Tottenham confirmed Alli will not be available for them before the international break due to a hamstring injury, which he sustained against Spain and has since aggravated.

Lingard has been absent from the past two Manchester United squads with a reported groin injury, while Ashley Young – starting left-back at the World Cup – missed the Champions League draw against Valencia with an issue of his own.

The full-back has been usurped at club level by Luke Shaw, who looks certain to be recalled to the England squad having recovered fully from the concussion sustained against Spain.

Ben Chilwell made his senior debut after replacing Shaw in the group, but Leicester team-mate Demarai Gray’s hopes of a second call-up have been ended by an ankle injury.

James Maddison, another uncapped Foxes player, is pushing to be included for the first time, but it appears that Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho will have to make do with promotion to the England Under-21s squad.

Jadon Sancho has been in fine form for Borussia Dortmund this season.

Jadon Sancho has been in fine form for Borussia Dortmund this season.

Exciting Manchester City teenager Phil Foden has also been linked to a call-up, while Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barkley have been mentioned as potential recalls after watching from afar.

It would appear unlikely that Southgate would want to experiment too much this month given the importance of these back-to-back away games, although he cannot get away from issues relating to injuries and match sharpness.

Fabian Delph missed Manchester City’s midweek trip to Hoffenheim with a knock, while Liverpool’s Adam Lallana has not played a minute since withdrawing from last month’s squad with a groin complaint.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s last game time came in the 1-0 friendly win against Switzerland, but Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri suggested he could make his first club start of the campaign against Vidi in the Europa League on Thursday.

James Tarkowski hobbled off with a groin injury as Burnley won at Cardiff on Sunday – a match that Joe Hart starred in. Uncapped Marcus Bettinelli and Alex McCarthy joined Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland as Southgate’s goalkeeping options last month.

Other topics at Thursday’s press conference are sure to include FA technical director Dan Ashworth’s impending move to Brighton and the matter of players switching nationality.

Highly-rated West Ham youngster Declan Rice is mulling over his international future, despite having played for the Republic of Ireland.

Scotland international and Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney has also been linked with a switch to England, but manager Alex McLeish said there is “nothing sinister” in his absence from the squad named this week.

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Lionel Messi to miss Argentina international matches in Saudi Arabia

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Lionel Messi has not featured for Argentina since the World Cup.

Earlier this month, the 30-year-old also missed friendly encounters in the United States against Guatemala and Colombia, and will once again be afforded more time off  following Argentina’s disappointing World Cup campaign in Russia.

Interim coach Lionel Scaloni will continue to lead the side, with Iraq on October 11, being Argentina’s first assignment in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria and AC Milan hitman Gonzalo Higuain will also play no part.

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Joachim Low blocked from meeting former Germany and Arsenal star Mesut Ozil

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Fallout: Mesut Ozil and Joachim Low.

Germany boss Joachim Low turned up to Arsenal‘s training ground to meet Mesut Ozil but was blocked from talking to the midfielder, Bild reports.

It is understood that Die Mannschaft head coach and team director Oliver Bierhoff visited the Gunners’ London Colney base earlier this week in the hope of discussing Ozil’s decision to retire from international football after the World Cup in Russia.

Ozil called it a day for his country in July, claiming he had faced racism, disrespect and not received support from the German Football Association amid a social media storm surrounding a photograph he had taken with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan in May and a wider political debate over immigration in Germany.

Earlier this month, Low reportedly tried to phone and text Ozil but received no reply. The 2014 World Cup-winning manager has since rejected allegations of racism within the national side.

Meanwhile, Low and Bierhoff apparently caught up with Germany internationals Bernd Leno and Shkodran Mustafi at Arsenal’s visitors centre without speaking to Ozil.

“We would have liked to have spoken to Mesut, but we have to accept that at the moment he doesn’t want to have this conversation with us,” Bierhoff told Bild.

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