England manager Gareth Southgate insists Harry Kane could miss the Champions League final but still lead the Three Lions as they look to win the inaugural Nations League title this summer.
The 25-year-old has not played since injuring ankle ligaments in the first leg of Tottenham’s Champions League quarter-final win over Manchester City.
Kane, who won the Golden Boot at last year’s World Cup, has missed the end to the Premier League season with Spurs but is hoping to be fit for their European final date with Liverpool.
That game takes place in Madrid on June 1, just five days before England face Holland in their Nations League semi-final clash.
Kane was included in Southgate’s initial 27-man squad for the tournament which was named on Thursday, with the final 23-man group to be confirmed on May 27.
He is one of nine players from Tottenham and Liverpool who could potentially be involved in the final but Southgate will give him every chance to play for England, even if his fitness comes up short for Spurs.
“Frankly, we will know a lot more about that if he is in Tottenham’s team,” he said of Kane’s current level.
Asked if Kane needs to play in the Champions League final to be considered for international duty, Southgate replied: “Not necessarily because they might take a view that (Lucas) Moura scored a hat-trick (in the semi-final) and Son (Heung-min) played well so they keep Harry as an impact player.
“So without talking to Mauricio (Pochettino), I don’t know what his thinking on that will be. I guess that depends on how Harry trains in the build-up to the game.
“So no, I don’t think it is an absolute he has to play there or he is not ready four days later.
“Equally he could play in the final and not be right four days later for us, we are just going to have to play it by ear because he is not going to have had a game prior to that point.
“Where there are one or two others (players) we need to know a lot more about in the next week, he is one I will make an exception for in that I will see how it goes in the final week.”
Kane’s 22 England goals equates to three more than the rest of the forwards named in the Nations League squad combined.
But Southgate pointed to the fact his side faced Germany, Brazil, Holland and Italy without Kane last season and did not lose as proof that England can get results if their talisman is missing.
“I think in his mind the Champions League final has always been the target – but it is based more that he has got 20-odd goals in 37 games for us,” Southgate replied when asked why Kane would be given as long as possible.
“Although we have had to play a few matches without him across the two years, I think he has started 14 of our last 21 or 22 so there are lots of times we have had to get results without him as well.”