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Southgate’s “secret weapon”? – Palmer’s rise to England promising

Cole Palmer made his England debut in November in the 2-0 win over Malta [Getty Images]

The next few days are likely to be nerve-wracking for some of England's young players as they wait for Gareth Southgate to name his final squad for Euro 2024.

But one player who is almost certain of a place among the 26 players travelling to Germany is Chelsea FC's Cole Palmer – and is thus recording an incredible rise.

The 22-year-old has only played two games for England so far – his debut will be in November – but Palmer is seen as the Three Lions' “secret weapon” when England face Bosnia-Herzegovina in their first warm-up game in Newcastle on Monday.

Southgate will lose seven players from his provisional 33-man squad on Monday but it would raise many eyebrows if Palmer missed the cut. A player who wasn't even considered last summer has come a long way.

Palmer’s breakthrough season

Many in the football world were shocked when Palmer left Manchester City for Chelsea for £42.5 million on September 1.

He started the season well, scoring goals for City in their Community Shield defeat to Arsenal and their UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla.

Both goals came after he played a key role in England’s victory at the U21 European Championship in Georgia.

Many considered it a risk that Palmer would leave his boyhood club, which had just won the treble and where he had made his breakthrough after starting 13 times in a total of 41 first-team appearances.

But City coach Pep Guardiola was not prepared to loan him out, so Palmer moved permanently and relied on his own success.

And he was successful.

He scored 22 goals and provided 11 assists in 33 league games, playing a key role in Chelsea's qualification for next season's European Conference League after a poor first half of the season.

Palmer's incredible form also earned him the Premier League Young Player of the Season award.

“Chelsea’s Player of the Year”

Palmer became the first Chelsea player to be directly involved in 25 or more goals in a single Premier League season since Eden Hazard finished the 2018/19 season with 31 goals.

In the Premier League in the just-concluded season, only Erling Haaland scored more goals than Palmer, and only Ollie Watkins provided more assists.

Overall, Palmer has scored more goals and assists this season than any other player in Europe's five major leagues who started the season aged 21 or under.

It's been quite a 12 months for a player who was off the bench as a substitute when City won the Champions League by defeating Inter Milan in Istanbul.

Former Chelsea and Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas told BBC Sport: “I remember doing the Champions League final last summer. He was just warming up there, was one of those young players coming up, enjoyed the experience and wasn't fundamentally selected or considered for the game.”

“And then all of a sudden – a big move to Chelsea. He starts playing at a very high level with a lot of quality and personality. He wants the ball, he makes things happen – the final pass, he scores goals.

“I was a little surprised by the move to Chelsea. I have to say I was very impressed. I didn't expect this kind of impact and he was without a doubt Chelsea's player of the year.”

“He could be another weapon internationally”

Although Palmer is expected to be in Southgate's travelling squad, his place in England's starting eleven is far from certain.

Looking at his numbers in the Premier League this season, it may surprise an outsider, but he is in direct competition with Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, James Maddison, Anthony Gordon and Jarrod Bowen.

Palmer's preferred position is on the right, but he has shown at Chelsea that he can play anywhere in the attacking line and also in deeper midfield.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand told TNT Sport: “He's a wonderful talent. He's been the centre of attention in some of the WhatsApp groups I'm active in.”

“One of my friends compared him to a Chris Waddle-type player. He has excellent skills, his balance is hypnotic, it's phenomenal.”

“He's someone to keep an eye on in England. He's a great option. He's someone that not everyone knows much about at European and international level.

“He could be another weapon, internationally.”

Former England midfielder Joe Cole added: “The technical players will ensure we win the tournament. They all need to play and spend time on the pitch.”

“Cole Palmer is an absolute genius.”

Where would Palmer fit in your England eleven?