Gareth Southgate says Leicester City playmaker James Maddison was simply not as good as his rivals to earn a place in England's squad for Euro2020.
Maddison was a notable name absent from Southgate's provisional 33-man squad.
Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount, and Jesse Lingard are among the attacking midfielders selected for the Three Lions.
Southgate also suggested Maddison had not yet recovered from a hip injury due to Youri Tielemans taking set-piece responsibilities for the Foxes.
"It's an area of the pitch where we have unbelievable competition for places," Southgate said in his news conference. "We just feel there are players ahead of James in those areas of the pitch.
"He's had a season that's unfortunately been disrupted by injury and in more recent weeks he hasn't always been starting as well.
"It's been quite interesting, he hasn't been taking set-pieces, Tielemans has been taking their set-plays. I don't know if there's anything more involved in that.
"In the most simple terms we feel we've got players in that area of the pitch and at the moment we see them as just ahead of James."