England defender John Stones felt getting back into the Three Lions side was a challenge that helped him improve his game.
The two are the best defensive partnership in the league at present.
Now Stones is likely to start with England as they prepare for World Cup qualifiers, and he is delighted to be back in the national team setup.
"Those players coming in was added motivation to step up and prove my worth," Stones told reporters.
"I went away and did all the things that I needed to do. As a player, you can never rest, even when things are easy - everything is a challenge.
"I saw this as a challenge - a challenge to fight and a new challenge to retain a spot.
"I think I wanted to prove it to myself more than anyone else. Proving to myself was more satisfying.
"To go out there and show people, you have got an added pressure, but the person I am really trying to do it for - or prove to - is myself."
He added: "It was a relief. I was very nervous. I had worked so hard and I was hearing people say I should be in but I didn't take any of that in until the text arrived.
"I was waiting for the text to see if I was in. Time goes a bit slower when you are sat about waiting for something to happen. It was a special moment. A really special moment."
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