Gareth Southgate will “make an exception” over Harry Kane to give the injured striker more time to prove his fitness ahead of the Uefa Nations League Finals.
Such is the importance of the England captain that he will be named in the 23-man squad to be submitted before the Champions League Final even though he has not played since damaging ankle ligaments in Tottenham Hotspur’s quarter-final against Manchester City on April 9.
Southgate will attend the final in Madrid between Liverpool and Tottenham on June 1 and fly back in time to take training with the England squad at St George’s Park the following day.
Nine players from Southgate’s initial 27-man squad – which includes a recall for Southampton’s Nathan Redmond - for the fixtures the following week against Holland and either hosts Portugal or Switzerland will be involved in Madrid. Ross Barkley will feature for Chelsea in the Europa League Final while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi would have been selected by Southgate but for serious injury.
Harry Winks has also been included with hopes that he will recover from a groin operation with Southgate admitting he will have to carefully assess the fitness of a number of players – although he will give Kane added time.
“Where there are one or two others we need to know a lot more about in the next week, he (Kane) is one I will make an exception for in that I will see how it goes in the final week,” Southgate said.
“I think in his (Kane’s) mind the Champions League final has always been the target but it (my decision) is based more that he has got 20-odd goals in 37 games for us. So no, I don't think it is an absolute he has to play there (in Madrid) or he is not ready four days later.”
Southgate will have to carefully manage his squad and, interestingly, will also hold combined training sessions with the England Under-21s as they prepare for the European Championships.
The manager and his staff will weigh up the “psychological” factor, more than the physical impact, of who wins the Champions League to see whether the players are ready to, soon after, play two more games for England and how they “feel”.
“You pick some of that up on the training pitch but you pick a lot up from conversations and body language and they can't hide,” Southgate said.
“I think as a coach, one of the biggest things is to observe well and you are constantly watching them and observing their behaviours.
“I don't think it is as straightforward as those that win are great and ready to go, those that lose might be ready to get out there and ready to fight and we just have to monitor that.
“But we have got to prepare with the rest as though we have none of them available and go from there and then make decisions as the guys start to arrive.”
Southgate omitted Luke Shaw, despite the left-back being Manchester United’s player of the year, preferring to stick with Danny Rose and Ben Chilwell and made a seemingly pointed comment about the pair having “been committed to the England shirt over the last period of time”. There was also no place for Burnley’s James Tarkowski with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez being preferred even though Southgate admitted he will have to monitor him as well as the City pair of John Stones and Fabian Delph as they have not played much for their clubs of late.
The Nations League, he said, represented an opportunity for England to build on their run to the World Cup semi-finals. “The fact that it is so long since we won anything, first and foremost. We want to be in big matches,” Southgate explained. “It would not be right to pitch it with a European Championship or a World Cup… But here we have had a high level of matches which is important for our growth as a team.”
However, he said it was a “shame” that the games will not be shown on terrestrial television and, therefore, not available to a wider audience.
“Money is brilliant but you want to engage as wide an audience as possible,” he said. “Those Champions League nights that we’ve just had might have had five-fold the numbers so that’s always a constant battle because we wouldn’t have the quality of the Premier League without the money that is in it.”