England‘s struggling striker Harry Kane insists he has no fitness problems despite a difficult start to the Euro 2020 campaign in which manager Gareth Southgate has twice taken off his talisman when he has shown signs of flagging.

The England captain was replaced by Marcus Rashford in Friday’s goalless Group D draw against Scotland at Wembley because Southgate wanted more energy in attack but Kane has assured fans he is not suffering from any injury.

Gareth is within his rights to make the changes he thinks are best for the team,” Kane, who managed only 19 touches in the Scotland game, according to The Guardian.

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“What we’ve learned over past tournaments is about trying to peak at the right time. The best time to be peaking is in the knockout stages and hopefully kick on from there.”

England have had a muted start to the Euros after scraping a 1-0 win in their opener over Croatia, who beat England in the 2018 World Cup semifinals in Russia, and failing to break down a dogged Scotland side in front of the home fans at Wembley.

“Maybe in Russia there were times, towards the quarter- and semifinal, when I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be,” the 27-year-old Kane added. “In the end we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, maybe partly for that reason.

“It’s about managing the squad, making sure everyone is feeling as fit and sharp as possible. In my case, it was a tough couple of games [Croatia and Scotland] and it’s about making sure I’m right for the rest of them.

“I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t feel physically I wasn’t up to it. I felt going into those games as good as I’ve felt all season, if I’m honest.”

Asked if a desire to leave his club Tottenham Hotspur had affected his performances for the national team, he replied: “Absolutely not. All my focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament.

“I understand from a media point of view there is speculation but I am fully focused on the job here.”

England, who have four points from two games, must beat group leaders the Czech Republic at Wembley on Tuesday to qualify for the last 16 in top spot. Kane believes that while they have been solid at the back they can improve up front.

“We all pride ourselves on not conceding, from front to back, and now I feel we can get better in the attacking third and be a bit more fluid and a bit more free and create a few more chances. Then we can be a strong team,” he said.

As we have seen over the past 18 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the global financial market, clubs will have to get creative if they are looking to move players on, or bring in new arrivals.

The transfer rumour mill is still turning but it is unlikely that any of Europe’s top clubs will spend €100 million on one player this summer, as they have done in the past. Transfer values have shrunk, and clubs are cutting costs, but swap deals could be the salvation.

There’s a few high-profile precedents from history (although it didn’t work out that well) as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o traded between Barcelona and Inter Milan in 2009, along with a host of others over the years.

With the caveat that they are all hypothetical

Spanish champions Atletico Madrid are in a tough financial position and need to raise funds, while also replacing any player that goes. Their star goalkeeper Oblak would be tough to replace, but it’s difficult to think of a better option than De Gea, who started his career at Atletico before moving to Man United in 2011. De Gea is 30 and has a contract which expires in 2023, so his value isn’t going to increase but he’s only two years older than Oblak and can reignite his career back in La Liga. Yes, United have Dean Henderson as well, and he’d probably have to be moved on or sent out on loan, but Oblak is world-class and arguably the best goalkeeper around. Atletico would have to lower their €120m asking price considerably, but knowing they’d get De Gea in return might do it.

United have shown interest in Trippier already to strengthen their full-back positions, so it makes sense to add him to the deal, while realising that a 30-year-old defender isn’t going to fetch his €40m release clause. As a sweetener, United can add Van de Beek, who has struggled since his €45m arrival from Ajax last summer, and he would be able to slot in and replace Saul Niguez (who looks likely to depart) in the Atletico midfield.

Real Madrid’s interest in signing Mbappe is no secret, nor is the player’s desire to one day join the Spanish club. But a €160m deal just can’t be done in these times, even with Mbappe’s contract running down in 2022. He surely won’t want to leave his hometown side short by moving on a free transfer next summer, so one would imagine he’ll sign new terms in the coming months to keep his value, perhaps with a release clause written in should Madrid make an acceptable offer.

But to head all that off, Madrid are in a strong position to offer PSG a pretty good deal right now. They have an unhappy Varane wanting to return to France, with his contract expiring in 2022 as well, and a young player who could slot in to Mbappe’s position. Rodrygo hasn’t impressed as much as fellow Brazilian Vinicius Jr. at the Bernabeu since his arrival in 2019 but he’s only 20 and PSG could certainly help him push on to the next stage of his career.

Madrid get their No. 1 target; PSG get a world-class defender and a forward with huge potential. Madrid would have to raise another €50m to even tempt PSG into discussions but they have a host of players like Isco, Mariano Diaz and Alvaro Odriozola who could get them there if they are moved on.

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