DOHA, Qatar -- Gareth Southgate has insisted Ben White left the England camp for personal reasons and played down suggestions of a bust-up between the Arsenal defender and his assistant coach Steve Holland.
The Football Association released a statement on Nov. 30 revealing that the 25-year-old was departing Qatar with an accompanying request to respect the player's privacy. Arsenal added in their own club statement that "we're all with you, Ben."
However, a report emerged on Friday suggesting White had been involved in a disagreement with Holland at a team meeting over a failure to recall data relating to his personal statistics.
Asked by ESPN about the validity of those claims, Southgate told a news conference on Friday: "As far as I am aware, the article that was written used words like 'alleged' and so whoever wrote it didn't feel strongly enough that it was correct.
"Ben left for personal reasons. We made that very clear and I think especially in this day and age it is very important that a situation like that is respected."
Sources have told ESPN that there was an incident at a team meeting involving White but describe the situation as "complicated."
While White, who did not play a single minute at the World Cup, is said to have been dealing with a separate personal issue, sources have told ESPN he was considered aloof around the camp by some of his teammates and struggled to integrate fully with the group. White's representatives have been contacted by ESPN for comment.
ESPN has learned that White and his partner are currently on holiday in the Maldives and it is has not yet been confirmed when the centre-back will return to training with Arsenal. Arsenal are in Dubai taking part in warm-weather training and a friendly tournament named the Dubai Super Cup before heading back to London for a further friendly against Juventus at Emirates Stadium on Dec. 17.
Meanwhile, England are preparing for a quarterfinal against France at Al-Bayt Stadium on Saturday and Southgate will include Raheem Sterling in his matchday squad after the Chelsea winger returned to the camp having flown home following a robbery at his home.
"I've spoken briefly with Raheem at training and then I need to pick up with him again later because we've had other things going on but it is great that he's back with us, first and foremost," said Southgate.
"He wanted to train today. Normally we wouldn't do that having been on a long flight but it was a lighter session so no risk with doing that. He will be involved tomorrow but what that looks like, I've got to decide because I've not been able to see him on the training pitch so it is hard to tell what the level is.
"He's not been with us, in terms of being on the pitch, since Saturday. So we'll just have to assess that but really pleased he's back and of course he is an important player for us."