The making of 'absolute gem' Guehi

When coaches, team-mates and those who know Marc Guehi well are asked about the strengths of the centre-back, it is his composure which is routinely referenced.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise the 23-year-old has performed so well at Euro 2024. One of the Premier League’s most promising young defenders has taken to the tournament stage seamlessly and has been arguably England’s best performer in Germany so far. Certainly one of their most consistent. Amid all the drama he has been a steady, assured presence at the heart of the defence.

Before the Euros, there were serious concerns about the quality of England’s backline and added worry about Harry Maguire – who, for all his critics, is the leader of that defence – being ruled out with injury. But Guehi and his more experienced centre-back partner John Stones, have helped Gareth Southgate’s side post the best defensive figures of any team in the competition so far. It is at the other end of the pitch where Southgate has bigger problems.

It is perhaps typical of Guehi’s character that when he was asked about those defensive stats and his performances he was quick to dismiss the suggestion he has been England’s best player and pay credit to Maguire for his help in helping him settle at international level since his debut in 2022.

But that modesty only masks a determination and drive to Guehi’s personality which has taken him to the top of the game and led different coaches in club and international football to name him captain of their sides.

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Marc Guehi pays homage to the England boss Gareth Southgate as he looks ahead to the game against Slovakia

A skipper of the England age groups and a stand-in captain at Crystal Place at 21, Guehi is a player who leads his team-mates by example.

“Straight away I was impressed by how mature he is,” said England U21s boss Lee Carsley when he named him captain. “The way he talks about the game, the way he influences players off the pitch. The example he sets off the pitch as well as on it made it an easy choice.” England seniors boss Gareth Southgate has praised him for never looking rushed.

They are traits that have been there since the start. “When Marc was here he was calm, he was kind, he was intelligent, he worked hard and he was a real team player,” Guehi’s former primary school head teacher Edward Dove told Sky Sports News.

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Sky Sports News’ James Cole visits Marc Guehi’s primary school to see where it all began for the England centre-back

That was the young boy Michael Beale got to know well. The former Rangers boss was a leading coach in Chelsea’s academy and took Guehi – a kid from the same south east London estate and primary school as Beale – under his wing.

Beale got to know Guehi’s father, John, a minister, and would even drive Guehi around the M25 to Cobham, where the young defender enthusiastically listened, learnt and developed among an elite group of rising stars.

“He was a really shy boy but came to life on the pitch,” Beale tells Sky Sports. “He was a hugely well-mannered young man. I can’t think of too many stories of mischief!

His discipline has been driven by the family but even when he was very young compared to the other boys he was always very focused, working hard in every session. He never missed a session that I can remember.”

That attitude was coupled with a hunger to defend.

Denmark's Yussuf Poulsen, left, watches England's Marc Guehi during a Group C match between Denmark and England at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Marc Guehi has shown a hunger to defend from a young age

“He was always a defender,” remembers Beale. “He was like a rash on the forwards, aggressive in the tackle. He liked to keep his game very simple and then pass it to the midfielders or into the forwards quite quickly and he hasn’t changed from that.

“You see how aggressive he is ‘locking down’ and stealing possession. But he’s very calm when he’s defending.”

At Chelsea, and then on loan at Swansea and Crystal Palace, Guehi played with Conor Gallagher. “It seems like we can’t leave each other alone,” the midfielder has joked. “We’re best mates.”

They are now England colleagues at this Euros and the depth of quality in that Chelsea academy is partly responsible for helping to shape them into internationals and leading Premier League players. Declan Rice, who also started for the Three Lions against Slovenia, was another player in that academy.

“Chelsea at the time and still is a fantastic academy,” says Beale. “We did a lot of work going around London to get the best players across all of the boroughs.

“Look at the players in the age groups in and around Marc’s: Mason Mount, Declan Rice, Fikayo Tomori, Ola Aina, Tammy Abraham, Dominic Solanke, Reece James, Rhian Brewster, Callum Hudson-Odoi…

“When you had that mix of players, the academy fixtures here in the UK but also going further afield and playing in Europe, the experience that they got playing together and how strong a bond those boys got is fantastic.

“They pushed each other on. The training games were always the best games of the week.

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A look at centre-back Marc Guehi’s best bits from the 2023-24 campaign

Like many of those players listed above, Guehi had to leave Chelsea to find regular first-team football but he is now being linked with a summer transfer which would take him to the top end of the Premier League. Manchester United and Liverpool are rumoured to be interested in a transfer.

The centre-back isn’t the biggest defender in the league at 6ft and he is a right-footer playing on the left side of a backline, but Beale is confident Guehi would cope with that transition to one of the country’s biggest clubs, pointing to his technical skills in the position

“His reading of the game and his athleticism gets him a yard on his centre-forward,” says Beale.

England's Marc Guehi, challenges for the ball with Serbia's Dusan Vlahovic during a Group C match between Serbia and England at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
Marc Guehi has been one of England’s top performers at the Euros

“He shows a huge amount of confidence to play on the left side and his technical upbringing from Chelsea means he can use his left foot, albeit he is dominant on his right foot.

“When you see the teams line up, he’s not the biggest centre-back but he has a huge leap.

“Quietly people are realising we have an absolute gem in him.”

He might be too humble to sing his own praises, but Guehi has plenty of people talking about him now.

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