Jude Bellingham has been a revelation for England’s national team, and now Cole Palmer has a chance to step forward and make his way into the picture for next year’s European Championship.
The Chelsea midfielder had just scored a stoppage-time penalty to secure a 4-4 draw with former club Manchester City on Sunday when he learned of his late call up to the national team.
“I got the message near enough straightaway after the match,” Palmer said this week.
He was promoted from the under-21 squad for Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia after injury withdrawals from James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Lewis Dunk.
It has been a whirlwind start to the season for a player who was on the fringes at City in August and now finds himself in a position to make his senior England debut only a few months after joining Chelsea.
There is little doubt Bellingham – who has also withdrawn from the squad because of injury – will be at the heart of Gareth Southgate’s plans at Euro 2024 after establishing himself as one of the most exciting players in Europe over the past 12 months and making a spectacular start to his career at Real Madrid. But the England coach now has a chance to take a closer look at Palmer.
The 21-year-old Palmer, who was part of England’s Under-21 European Championship-winning team this year, has been one of the outstanding performers in the Premier League this season and his rapid progress is likely an unexpected bonus for Southgate.
After all, he was not expected to get regular game time this season in a City squad crammed with world-class players, even if he did score goals in the Community Shield and European Super Cup at the start of the campaign. His move to Chelsea, however, has changed the picture for both him and England.
“Who knows what would have happened if I had stayed [at City],” Palmer said. “Maybe I would have played more, maybe not. But I think the decision that I made to go to Chelsea so far is paying off.”
Palmer showed his composure by converting his penalty against City. It was his fourth goal in 11 games for Chelsea and his sixth of the season, including two for City.
His goals have tended to come on big occasions.
He scored against Arsenal in the Community Shield and against Sevilla in the Super Cup. He scored against Arsenal again in Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with the Gunners last month and then in a 4-1 win over Tottenham.
The goal against City, at the end of a frenetic match at Stamford Bridge, showed his self-confidence – much like Bellingham, who has scored 13 goals in as many appearances for Madrid since joining from Borussia Dortmund in the off-season.
The timing of Palmer’s call up could be perfect for him and Southgate as England plays its last two competitive matches before Euro 2024.
The final qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia give Southgate the chance to experiment while still involving players in relatively meaningful encounters.
Palmer has already established himself as a key part of Mauricio Pochettino’s plans at Chelsea as both a creative and goal-scoring force.
England has traditionally struggled to produce players who are technically adept at keeping the ball at the highest level. Palmer, schooled under Pep Guardiola, is the latest in a growing number of players – along with Bellingham and Phil Foden – who have those qualities.
If he can maintain his form, he could be an unexpected addition Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024.