LONDON • Jermain Defoe has indicated he will leave struggling Sunderland if they are relegated because he needs to stay in the Premier League to keep alive his hopes of going to next year's World Cup Finals with England.
The 34-year-old striker, back in the England squad for the first time since November 2013, said ahead of today's friendly against Germany in Dortmund that he has to be realistic.
"To get into any squad, it's based on merit and you've got to be playing at the top level. It's as simple as that," Defoe said.
"The boys I'm competing against are playing in the Premier League and playing in Europe."
Rock-bottom Sunderland are seven points from safety, despite Defoe's 14 league goals, making him the second-highest English scorer this season after Tottenham's Harry Kane (19).
Defoe, who has 55 caps and played for England in the 2010 World Cup Finals, said he had never given up hope of a recall.
"It didn't stop me from getting my head down, working hard and hoping I'll get an opportunity to represent my country again," he said.
Defoe is vying to start the Germany friendly with Leicester's Jamie Vardy and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE