Jose Mourinho has criticised Gareth Southgate’s decision to have Bukayo Saka taking England’s fifth penalty in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out.
The 19-year-old Arsenal forward’s penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma to hand Italy victory in the Wembley final and Mourinho felt more experienced England players should have been taking a spot-kick.
The Roma manager told talkSPORT: “The decision of the penalty takers, I think it is hard to leave Saka as the last one. 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 (Raheem) Sterling, where was (John) 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).”
Former England full-back Stuart Pearce disagreed with Mourinho and defended Southgate’s choice of penalty takers.
“When we won the last two penalty shoot-outs before last night nobody was complaining about the process in picking the players to take them,” Pearce told talkSPORT.
“Jadon (Sancho), Marcus (Rashford) and Bukayo look like strong characters. These three boys will spring back. Our profession is tough at times but you have got to be resilient.”
ITV pundit Roy Keane had said after the game the likes of Sterling and Jack Grealish “cannot sit there and have a young kid go up for a penalty ahead of you”.
But Aston Villa midfielder Grealish responded on Monday morning, posting on Twitter: “I said I wanted to take one!!!! The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will…”
Despite the heartbreak of losing the Euro 2020 final on penalties, Mourinho believes England can take confidence into next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
“I believe that if you look forward and you know that you have a World Cup coming very soon there are only reasons to be optimistic. Move to the future with great hope. A lot of these players can be even better for the experience.
“I think people have to start looking at the England national side with different eyes and, for the next World Cup, England will be a strong contender.
“But at the same time I can imagine the frustration and sadness because it was closer than ever. To lose a final at home is very, very hard.
“I think it is a missed opportunity. When you get to a final, anything less than a win is not good. When you lose a final I don’t think you ever forget that. It stays with you forever. I don’t know when they are going to sleep properly because it is hard.
“But the reality is that they did very well. They have a very young team. Gareth and Steve (Holland) together are doing a great job.”
Pearce agreed that England have much to be positive about after reaching their first major tournament final since 1966.
“We’ve gone all the way to the last game. In the end we’ve ended up being beaten by the best side in the tournament,” he said.
“I think the players knew they were so close. The only emotion I have is pride in what they have achieved. They have given the nation a massive lift. I think it is a fantastic achievement. A major step forward. We’ve beaten a decent Czech side, Croatia and the Germans on the way to the final.
“Next year I am looking at the squad of players and thinking that for a lot of players in there this experience will have done them good. Next year we can have a real tilt at the World Cup.”
Alan Shearer, who experienced heartbreak of his own when England bowed out in the semi-finals of Euro 96 in a penalty shoot-out, urged the current squad to be proud of their performances in the tournament despite the agony of losing the final.
“Football can be a cruel cruel game at times,” Shearer told BBC Breakfast.
“These boys will feel so angry and disappointed. But they can feel proud of what they have given us over the last month. They have put a smile on a lot of people’s faces and they can be proud of that.
“These guys have given everything. They have left nothing on the field. There’s hurt, there’s anger, there’s pride but you have got to move on. That’s part and parcel of football. You have to have bad times to appreciate the good times and hopefully they aren’t far away.
“They are on the right path. If they keep on going, keep improving, who knows? Looking back on this tournament they might just think that it has hurt them so much they don’t want to experience it again and they use that to help them in the World Cup.”
Mourinho had a difficult relationship with Shaw during his spell as Manchester United manager but admitted that the full-back had enjoyed an impressive tournament.
“Because people feel I don’t like Luke Shaw I have to say amazing tournament, fantastic final, no mistakes,” he said. “For him and his career, very good Luke Shaw.”
Former England striker Teddy Sheringham recalled the Three Lions’ semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat to Germany at Euro 96 and said Southgate’s players would be feeling “a horrible pain”.
“You could just feel their pain, couldn’t you? It’s just a horrible feeling. People have been asking me, ‘what did you say to Gareth in ’96?’ What can you say?” Sheringham told talkSPORT.
“No one’s thought of something that’s better than penalties and someone still has to carry that pain.”
The ex-Tottenham and Manchester United forward felt Italy fully deserved their Wembley victory and England were again “found wanting”.
“The best team in the tournament won the final and the best team in the final won it,” he said. “If you look at the two countries and where they’re at, Italy are a controlled footballing team, we’re still trying to get there.
“We’re still trying to find the answers of how to control a football match and get the opposition running around. We did for about 30 minutes against Denmark and really looked like a proper footballing team that were wearing Denmark down.
“When the pressure was on last night we were found a little bit wanting, all over the pitch. There were too many hoofed balls out, too many ‘get it away from here, get it up to the front’. We revert back to type, what we’ve done over the years.”