The Liverpool man lost his place in the England squad during the previous international break, after a disappointing first half of the season.
But a resurgence in his and Liverpool's form means he is back in the provisional squad for Euro 2020.
"It's not that straightforward," Southgate told reports about his right back options.
"We need versatility, we need competition for places and we are still unclear on certain injuries. Trent is very much in contention.
"People think I don't think Trent is a good footballer. That just isn't the case. He has indirectly come in for some criticism and I felt the need to communicate more with him than anyone else over the past couple of months but I think his performances have been very good.
"I'm a little bit surprised by some of the things that have been written because people just don't know those communications that have gone on. But that is credit to Trent that he has kept that to himself."
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