Jermain Defoe hints at quitting Sunderland if they get relegated
Jermain Defoe has admitted he would be forced to leave Sunderland to safeguard his hopes of playing at next year's World Cup if the club suffer relegation from the Premier League this season.
The 34-year-old, who won the last of his 55 caps against Chile in November 2013, has been recalled to the England squad by manager Gareth Southgate for Wednesday's friendly against Germany in Dortmund and Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley after scoring 14 goals this term for relegation-threatened Sunderland.
With Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney all ruled out of Southgate's squad due to injury and Arsenal's Theo Walcott not selected, Defoe is vying with Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford for a place alongside Leicester's Jamie Vardy against Germany.
But after spending almost a year away from the Premier League with Toronto FC in 2014, Defoe says he cannot afford another season out of the English top flight if he is to have a realistic chance of playing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"When I missed out on the last World Cup squad it was hard news to accept," Defoe said. "But at the same time you have to be realistic. The boys I was competing against were playing in the Premier League and Europe and that was probably why I missed out.
"So I would say so, yes, I would probably need to be playing in the Premier League to have a chance of going to the World Cup. To get into any [international] squad is based on merit, so you have got to be playing at the top level, it is as simple as that."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_