Tottenham must make signings in this transfer window if they want to challenge for the top four in the Premier League, according to former Spurs star Chris Waddle.

Having appointed former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, Spurs will be looking for the Portuguese head coach to guide them to Champions League football for the first time since their fourth-place finish in the 2018-19 season.

Following Jose Mourinho's sacking in April, Ryan Mason steered his boyhood club to seventh at the end of last season to secure a position in the new UEFA Conference League before Nuno's appointment.

Amid continuing speculation surrounding talisman Harry Kane's departure, Nuno may be preparing for life in London without the England captain, who netted four times at Euro 2020 to finish behind Patrik Schick and Cristiano Ronaldo (five each) for the Golden Boot.

But Waddle feels it is the other end of the pitch that Nuno needs to focus on.

"Tottenham need to sort their defence out first and foremost," he told Stats Perform.

"Nuno had a good track record with Wolves defensively. But the football at Wolves wasn't probably what Tottenham fans would want to watch."

Tottenham shipped 45 goals last campaign, two fewer than they conceded in the 2019-20 season.

While Wolves' defence was breached 52 times last campaign – a season largely hampered by Raul Jimenez’s injury and the departures of Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty – Nuno's men conceded just 40 goals in 2019-20.

Up front, the situation with Kane, who finished as the Premier League's top scorer with 23 goals in the 2020-21 season before guiding England to their first major tournament final in 55 years, remains unclear.

 

With or without their star forward, Waddle feels Spurs have quality in their ranks, which could thrive with a few smart signings.

"[Pierre-Emile] Hojbjerg had a good tournament - good footballer, he's a good player," Waddle added.

"Son [Heung-min] is a good player we know that. It looks like [Nuno] is trying to buy, and it looks like he's trying to get a midfield player [to play] alongside Hojbjerg, which would be good.

"What I see, would it be a top-four team next season? At the present minute before the transfer market really kicks in. I would say well what they've got now - no.

"I would say they're probably going to be sixth or seventh. If they make four or five good signings - possibly top four, yes.

"Maybe they'll go into the pack, and they'll go into it with a chance, but at this minute in time no I wouldn't put Tottenham in top four."

Nuno Espirito Santo insists Harry Kane is very much part of his plans as he aims to propel Tottenham back into the Champions League.

Nuno was appointed by Spurs in June, replacing Ryan Mason, who had been interim charge since Jose Mourinho's dismissal in April.

Paulo Fonseca and Gennaro Gattuso were among the coaches who had been in talks with Tottenham prior to Nuno's appointment, with the former Wolves boss having previously been close to joining Crystal Palace and then Everton.

One of Nuno's first tasks will be helping to convince star man Kane, fresh from his run to the Euro 2020 final with England, to stay put.

Kane disclosed in May that he was open to moving away from Tottenham, with reports claiming he is hoping to sign for Manchester City, who have held discussions with Spurs – rumours of a £100million bid, which included potential player swaps, surfaced last month.

However, Nuno is adamant Kane will remain a Spurs player.

"Harry’s our player. Period. No need to talk about anything else," he said in his first news conference as Tottenham boss.

"Now is the moment for him to recover his energy and rest. Then we can speak. I am looking forward to him joining the group.

"I have no doubts in my mind. What I wish is for Harry to recover well, to have a good rest and when he arrives he will feel that every one of us needs to commit themselves to become better.

"We are very ambitious people. We want to do it well. We count on Harry on that.

"I am excited to work with all the players. Harry is one of the best players in the world. That is all I need to say."

Kane failed to register a single touch in the penalty area during England's defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, though he had netted four goals in the knockout stage to equal Gary Lineker as the country's leading goalscorer in major tournaments with 10.

The 27-year-old finished as the leading scorer (23) and leading assister (14) in the Premier League last term but could only help Spurs to a disappointing seventh-placed finish.

While Kane's future remains up in the air, Spurs may also be facing something of a reshuffle elsewhere in their squad.

Toby Alderweireld has reportedly asked to leave, while Lucas Moura, Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela could all be sold.

"A lot of work to be done. Improving this squad is not easy because of the quality we have," Nuno said when asked about incoming transfers.

"We [the coaches] have opinions and ideas. We do our job and try to find the best decisions."

Tottenham fans would understand if Harry Kane pushed for an exit from the club in this transfer window, according to former Spurs star Chris Waddle.

Kane is yet to win a major trophy despite a prolific Premier League career and this year is seen as a pivotal one to determine his long-term future.

Spurs finished seventh last season which was only good enough to reach the new UEFA Conference League, with the forward being open with the media on thinking seriously about his future.

Manchester City are rumoured to have already had a £100million offer knocked back by Tottenham, while Manchester United have also been linked with the England captain.

Kane revealed last week towards the end of Euro 2020 that he had yet to speak to new Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who has replaced Jose Mourinho.

Fabio Paratici, now managing director at the Premier League club, has stressed Spurs have no intention of selling the "special player" while he has three years to run on his contract.

Waddle believes Spurs fans would not query Kane, who suffered heartbreak with England at the Euro 2020 final on Sunday when Italy triumphed on penalties, if he decided to move on.

"Tottenham fans I don't think would have any complaints if he left," Waddle said to Stats Perform.

"I think they've got it and accept that he's given a lot of service to Tottenham – he's enjoyed it, he supports them and he'd love to win trophies.

"Now Harry Kane can win the golden boot each year and be the top scorer of the Premier League, top scorer of the Premier League and top scorer of the Premier League again.

"When he looks back, he will say personal achievements have been great.

"Now he probably wants to say I want to stand up and lift that trophy to say Tottenham have won the FA Cup, League Cup – something! - and I think he feels he needs to win trophies.

"He has done everything he's wanted to do personally, obviously he'd love to win something with England but personal-wise I think he's probably thought I've got them [the individual accolades].

"But [he will think], 'I've not won any medals as a footballer as a team player' and it's probably getting to him now." 

Kane, who turns 28 this month, finished as the Premier League's top scorer with 23 goals in 2020-21.

He also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

Kane then finished the Euros with four goals – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick (five each) managed more – to draw level with Gary Lineker as his nation's leading scorer at major tournaments.

Waddle understands why a striker of that calibre feels the urgency to seek a resolution on his club future, with Manchester being his likely destination one way or another.

"He's 27, 28 years old and his next contract will be the last big contract he will think where he's going to win something," added Waddle.

"And let's be honest, it's only Man City who are definitely a fair chance of winning a trophy, two or three.

"Manchester United is another club, but if you look abroad, most teams are skint.

"So I think there's only a couple of teams who can afford Harry Kane."

Waddle is certain Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will hold out as long as it takes to get a huge transfer fee for Kane, even if that results in a protracted transfer saga.

While the final transfer fee could be eye-watering, Waddle insists Kane is worth it.

Waddle said: "Tottenham will hold out for money because they want to buy their own players on their budget.

"So it's going to be an interesting two or three weeks because if he's desperate to get away, Daniel Levy as we've seen in the past does drive a hard bargain.

"He may not be forced into Harry Kane leaving on the cheap, put it that way, and if it means keeping hold of him for a longer period, then they will do that.

"They want the money and if we look at the valuation, yes, it is a hell of a lot of money.

"But you've got to say in modern-day football he is worth it."

Manchester City's search to replace Sergio Aguero is well known.

Spanish reports have linked Pep Guardiola’s side with Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann.

So, could City - who won the Premier League but lost the Champions League final to Chelsea – be set to bring in the France international? Possibly not...

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN NOT ON CITY RADAR

Manchester City are ready to ramp up their move for a new striker during the transfer window but will not pursue Barcelona forward Griezmann, claims The Sun.

Pep Guardiola's side will instead set their sights on Tottenham's Harry Kane, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is another possibility.

The Sun's report denies Spanish links between City and Frenchman Griezmann, with Barcelona understood to be keen to reduce their wage bill to free up funds to re-sign Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail reports that Atletico Madrid's signing of midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese will pave the way for Liverpool's proposed move to sign Saul Niguez. De Paul's arrival means Atleti are free to sell him off, with the Reds and Barcelona reportedly interested.

- Juventus are homing in on a transfer for Manchester City's Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, while they are also keen on bringing back Moise Kean to Turin, according to Tuttosport.

- Manchester United are edging closer to agreeing terms with French defender and long-term target Raphael Varane for a move from Real Madrid, reports the Mail.

- Jadon Sancho's move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United will be confirmed this week with a medical before his post-Euro 2020 holiday, claims The Sun.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio will become Jose Mourinho's first signing at Roma imminently.

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America had the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Italy and Argentina lifted the respective trophies at the weekend, with the Azzurri beating England in a penalty shoot-out and La Albiceleste seeing off bitter rivals Brazil at the Maracana to win the Copa for the first time since 1993.

Stats Perform has looked at 13 of the leading candidates to feature at either tournament to determine how their chances look heading into the new season.

Jorginho

Before Euro 2020, N'Golo Kante was the Chelsea midfielder seen to be within the best shot of scooping individual honours at the end of 2021, but a month on it's Jorginho who is the European champion at club and international level.

While he has perhaps been underappreciated or misunderstood at times with Chelsea, perhaps supporters will see him in a new light after playing a vital role in Italy's success as their deep-lying playmaker.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Lewandowski's Ballon d'Or hopes arguably aren't any worse now than before the Euros as no one will have expected Paulo Sousa's men to make much of an impact. He got three goals in as many games and was only out-scored by six players, which is a solid achievement.

 

Marco Verratti

Had he not been injured for the first two games of Euro 2020, there's every possibility it would have been Verratti being crowned as player of the tournament, with the Paris Saint-Germain star arguably the player who embodies the qualities of Roberto Mancini's transformed Italy side more than any other.

Not only did he create more chances than anyone else at Euro 2020 (14), but averaged more touches (114.5) than anyone, played the fourth-most passes (87.1) and ranked third for tackles (four) per 90 minutes among all players to have featured for at least 125 minutes. His all-action excellence set the tone for the Azzurri's vibrant and, ultimately, successful football.

 

N'Golo Kante

Kante inspired Chelsea to Champions League glory, named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final versus Real Madrid and the final against Manchester City.

But France's last-16 elimination by Switzerland will have done little to boost his chances, with Paul Pogba rather than Kante the standout figure for Les Bleus. While a nomination is almost a certainty, taking the gong home now looks beyond the all-action midfielder.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

His exceptional quality was further underlined by the fact only Verratti created more chances than him over the course of the tournament, an impressive feat given he started the tournament late due to injury and then had to play through another fitness issue in Belgium's final match, but that's unlikely to be enough to earn him the award.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Generally, the player considered to be the best at a major international competition has a pretty good chance of winning further accolades, so in that case Donnarumma may have a reasonable opportunity after UEFA crowned him Euro 2020's Player of the Tournament.

Statistically there were numerous goalkeepers who were more important than him to their respective teams given he technically didn't prevent any goals according to Opta's xGOT metric – Tomas Vaclik's prevented a tournament-high 2.5. Nevertheless, Donnarumma wasn't guilty of any drops or errors that led to shots, and made crucial saves across two penalty shoot-outs, including a couple in the final.

 

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

A slow start to Euro 2020 followed, although Kane scored four times in the knockout phase as he played a key role in England's journey to the final. But when it mattered most he failed to have a single touch in the Italy penalty area. A talismanic performance in the showpiece may have put him firmly in the running, but it's difficult to see him being a major contender now.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

He certainly cannot be accused of failing to deliver for Belgium given he scored four times, but they came up short against Italy in the quarter-finals, with a partially injured De Bruyne unable to truly weave his magic. Lukaku's influence upon Inter shouldn't be overlooked, but the achievements of others on the international stage may overshadow his own.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it did put him right in the mix and he followed that up with a starring role in Argentina's Copa triumph, the first senior international trophy of his career. Given his lack of success with La Albiceleste was arguably the final barrier to clear in his career, a Ballon d'Or will surely follow later this year as he led Lionel Scaloni's men with four goals (joint-most) and five assists (the most).

 

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day, but it probably won't be in 2021. He was one of the biggest disappointments at Euro 2020, failing to score once despite his chances having an accumulative xG value of 2.02 – that under-performance was second-worst to Gerard Moreno (3.32).

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he only had an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or ahead of the Copa America, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

While his performances with Brazil would see him included in most people's team of the tournament, he wasn't dependable in front of goal, his one non-penalty strike coming from 5.3 xG, an under-performance unmatched by anyone in the tournament. He'll have to wait a bit longer for the prize he supposedly craves above all others.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

He definitely didn't do his chances any harm as he won the Golden Boot for most goals (five) – beating Patrik Schick by virtue of having more assists – after becoming the Euros' all-time leading scorer (11) and levelling Ali Daei's world-record haul of 109 international goals, but Portugal's failure to get beyond the last 16 won't help.

 

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

But he could only muster one goal at the Copa America as he and Uruguay had a minimal impact, meaning it'll take something special for Suarez to be a major candidate at the end of the year.

Harry Kane may already be looking ahead to next year's World Cup with England but the Tottenham striker's short-term targets are less clear amid uncertainty over his club future.

The England captain suffered heartbreak with his team-mates on Sunday, the Three Lions losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley following a 1-1 draw at the end of extra time.

Luke Shaw gave the hosts the lead inside two minutes as he scored the fastest-ever goal in a European Championship final, only for Leonardo Bonucci to hit back for the Azzurri in the second half.

Kane converted his penalty in the shoot-out, but he otherwise endured a quiet match as he failed to have a single touch of the ball inside the opposition box. Indeed, the 27-year-old did not have a shot or create any chances for his team-mates for only the second time in his 61 senior international appearances.

However, Kane finished the tournament with four goals – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick (five each) managed more – to draw level with Gary Lineker as his nation's leading scorer at major tournaments.

While disappointed to fall at the final hurdle, the prolific striker is determined to push on at Qatar 2022.

"Last night hurts. It'll hurt for a long time. But we've come so far and broken down so many barriers that this is not the end," he posted on his Twitter account on Monday. 

"We win together, lose together and will regroup together for the World Cup. Thanks for all your support this summer."

It remains to be seen whether Kane will still be a Tottenham player come the time the next World Cup begins, though. He revealed last week he had yet to speak to new boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who was named as Jose Mourinho's permanent successor on June 30.

Fabio Paratici, now managing director at the Premier League club, also stressed last week that Spurs have no intention of selling the "special player" while he has three years to run on his contract.

"Of course, as a player you want to be wanted, you want to feel like you're loved, which I do," Kane said when asked about his Tottenham future.

"I haven't had the chance to talk to any of these people yet. I'm sure we'll get to know each other after the Euros, have a phone call or two once I get a week or two of holiday."

Keeping hold of Kane will be the top priority for Paratici and Nuno, the former Leicester City loanee having finished as the Premier League's top scorer with 23 goals in 2020-21.

Kane also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

Manchester City are rumoured to have already had a big-money offer knocked back by Tottenham, while Manchester United have also been linked.

Tottenham's players not involved in international action over the past month returned to training last week ahead of their first pre-season friendly with Leyton Orient on Saturday.

Spurs are also set to take on Colchester United, MK Dons, Chelsea and Arsenal before their Premier League opener with Manchester City on August 15.

Harry Kane said the hurt of England's penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final would stay with his team-mates throughout their careers, but urged those who missed like Bukayo Saka to hold their heads up high.

After the Wembley showpiece finished 1-1, Kane scored England's first penalty of the shoot-out but Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka all failed to convert from the spot.

That left England to reflect on a missed opportunity to end their 55-year wait for a major trophy, but Kane insisted Gareth Southgate's team are moving in the right direction.

Kane told BBC Sport: "We couldn't have given more, the boys couldn't have given more. Penalties are obviously the worst feeling in the world when you lose. It wasn't our night.

"It's been a fantastic tournament and we should be proud, hold our heads up high. Of course it's going to hurt now, it's going to hurt for a while but we're on the right track and we're building. Hopefully we can progress from this next year.

"Obviously we got off to the perfect start. Maybe dropped a little bit too deep. Sometimes when you score that early it's easy to try soak up the pressure and hold onto that.

"They had a lot of possession but to be fair we looked fairly in control. They didn't create too many chances. They got their breakthrough from the set-piece and then after that it was probably 50-50.

"In extra time we grew into the game, had a few half-chances, and then obviously penalties is penalties. We went through our process, the boys did everything they could and it wasn't our night.

"You've just got to hold your heads up high. Fantastic tournament. These things can happen. Penalty shoot-out you go through a process, put it where you want to put it, but anyone can miss a penalty."

Kane was seen consoling Saka at the final whistle and he underlined the togetherness of Southgate's squad and their ambitions to achieve highly at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

The 27-year-old Tottenham striker is yet to win a major trophy in his career, but insisted he is surrounded by players with a winning mentality in the England squad.

"We win together, we lose together," said Kane. "We'll learn, we'll grow from it, and it'll give us even more motivation to do well in the World Cup next year.

"We should be extremely proud as a group of what we've achieved. We're all winners and want to win, and it'll probably hurt for the rest of our careers, but that's football.

"We've progressed well from Russia [2018 World Cup, where England reached the semi-finals], and now it's about continuing that.

"We've got a great squad, loads of great players hungry for more football like this. All we can do is build and learn, and hopefully go into next year in a better way."

Gareth Southgate insists Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips will not be fazed about going up against Italy's much-lauded midfield, pointing out they coped well despite their relative inexperience against two modern greats in Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

Italy have enjoyed almost universal acclaim for their performances at Euro 2020, with their run to Sunday's final seeing them extend their unbeaten run to 33 matches, a national record.

A lot of the praise has been centred around their midfield trio of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho and Marco Verratti, the latter two in particular.

Jorginho carries out an important function as their deep-lying playmaker, and his influence is highlighted by the fact he has completed more passes (390) and had more touches of the ball (503) than any of his team-mates, while his 38 instances of regaining possession and instigating passing sequences is 10 more than anyone else in the tournament.

As for Verratti, the Paris Saint-Germain star's 12 key passes is bettered by only Kevin De Bruyne and he leads the way in terms of involvements in open-play sequences that end in a shot, averaging 9.2 every 90 minutes (players with at least 165 mins played), which paints a picture of not only great creativity but also significant impact generally in Italy's build-up play.

 

Yet Italy struggled in that area against Spain and were subsequently overrun at times, their 0.8 xG to La Roja's 1.5 proof they were somewhat fortunate to get past Luis Enrique's side via a penalty shoot-out.

As such, Spain essentially highlighted that to dull Italy's strengths they need to win the midfield battle, and Southgate feels his players in that area are up to the challenge.

"I think when you're coaching a team, you watch everything and you have to decide the most important information for players, not flood them with too much, adapt the game to our strengths and highlight potential weaknesses," Southgate told reporters ahead of England's first major final in 55 years.

 

"Of course there are fantastic players all through the Italy team, they've a good tactical plan, an experienced coach and an amazing record over last 30 games or so, we are very aware of that.

"But players like our two midfielders [Rice and Phillips], they've played beyond their experience in this tournament and they've already played against Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, so they've had to adapt to these midfield players with great European experience and they've done that brilliantly.

"We're different, we have our own strengths, own style of play, which is geared towards the strengths of our players.

"That's the beauty of football, every team has different strengths, we've tried to play to ours and adapt to our strengths and we need to do the same [on Sunday]."

Another Italian double act that has been showered with praise is centre-back pairing Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose combined 33 European Championship appearances is four more than England's entire back five that started the semi-final against Denmark.

While they may not possess the same ball-carrying ease as England's Harry Maguire and John Stones, Chiellini remains a formidable scrapper even at the age of 36, with his 71.4 duels success bettered by only six defenders (involved in 10 or more duels). And Bonucci continues to read the game well, his haul of 12 interceptions being the most of all defenders at Euro 2020.

Together, there is not much they do not possess, and Harry Kane is relishing the chance to go up against them.

"They're two amazing defenders with great experience over their careers of big matches," Kane said.

"I've been fortunate to play against them before, and as a striker I want to play against the best and they're definitely up there."

 

Kane himself has had an intriguing tournament given he was widely criticised for a slow start that saw him fail to score until the knockout phase, yet he now has four heading into the final.

It is a curious change from his performance at the 2018 World Cup, when he scored five in the group and only one in the knockouts, and he suggested that may be by design.

"Obviously don't get me wrong, I'd have loved to have scored three or four in the group and got off to fantastic start and gone from there, but it was more about the energy," he said.

"I felt in the World Cup, it was such an amazing start, scoring in the last minute against Tunisia, a lot of energy after that game was used in terms of the emotion, and then against Panama it was the same, because it was an amazing game and I got a hat-trick.

"Again, there's a lot of talk and mental energy [expended] – Colombia was the same. Not just physically but mentally I felt I just lost a little towards the latter stages, so going into this one with a bit more experience it's about not getting too carried away, whether I score or not.

"Thankfully it's worked out pretty well, but I guess that's part of the learning curve and gaining that experience, hopefully I've enough left to finish the job."

Harry Kane has rejected the suggestion England are too nice ahead of the Euro 2020 final, with Gareth Southgate's squad ready to test their mettle once again after "knocking down barriers" to set up a showdown with Italy.

England will be aiming to win a first major international trophy since the 1966 World Cup, a 55-year-drought during which they have never made it beyond the last four at any tournament.

However, Kane's winner in extra time against Denmark on Wednesday secured a place in this year's European Championship showpiece – and they will have home advantage again when they face the Azzurri at Wembley Stadium.

Southgate and his players have ended the nation's long, at times painful wait to reach another final, but Kane made clear on the eve of the contest that being "humble and respectful" as a group does not suggest they lack the ruthless edge required to get the job done on Sunday.

Asked during his pre-match media duties if England are too nice, he replied: "No, I don't think so

"That's the personality of a lot of the players in the squad, they are humble and respectful, but we have a focus and determination to win, we've shown that in last tournament and this, knocking down barriers that have been there for a long time.

"In modern football there isn't so much mind games before, getting too hyped or out of control.

"We have a real vision of where we want to be and without that and our winning mentality we wouldn't be where we are now."

 

Southgate played for England when they lost in a Euros semi-final to Germany at the old Wembley back in 1996, when the song 'Three Lions' by English comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner became synonymous with the tournament.

The lyrics reference the failures to replicate the success enjoyed by Alf Ramsey's side over West Germany in 1966 and it has remained popular ever since, particularly when the national team are in action at a major event.

While Southgate has mixed emotions towards the song – it was his missed penalty that proved costly in the shoot-out against the Germans 25 years ago – he is delighted with the support his players have received this year.

"I didn't want to listen to it for 15 years because it was too painful for me," Southgate, who confirmed Phil Foden is a doubt to face Italy due to a knock, said to the media.

"You have to know the English to understand our humour and our humour is probably quite unique. It's certainly not arrogant, the lyrics are making fun of ourselves and what's gone wrong before.

"It's always appeared at tournaments, we have a couple of replacements that seem to have come through now, which is nice to move things forward.

"The atmosphere in the ground is great. When we started three four years ago, we had people throwing paper planes, they weren't behind the team and there was an apathy towards the team, but now the energy is fantastic.

"It's so important for the players, they need that warmth and it's definitely helped inspire us in this tournament."

Giorgio Chiellini is relishing coming up against Harry Kane in the final of Euro 2020, with the veteran Italy centre-back claiming he is a huge fan of the England captain.

Kane endured a lacklustre group stage before coming to life in the knockout stages of the tournament.

The Tottenham striker has four goals to his name, leaving him in with a shout for the Golden Boot when Gareth Southgate's men take on the Azzurri in Sunday's final at Wembley.

If Kane is to follow up scooping the same prize at the 2018 World Cup, he will have to get the better of Chiellini and his long-time ally Leonardo Bonucci at the heart of a formidable backline.

Italy had amassed 11 consecutive clean sheets before their 2-1 last-16 win over Austria and such solidity is a huge factor in the 33-match unbeaten run that has left them within touching distance of a first European title since 1968.

The 36-year-old Chiellini addressed a pre-match news conference, recalling his maiden encounter with Kane in 2015 – an international friendly drawn 1-1 in Turin that was a second cap for a striker who now has 60 senior international appearances and 38 goals to his name.

"He's very technical, he shoots well from distance, he's good in the air, he takes free-kicks. He's a player who really impressed me right from day one," the defender explained, before recalling several discussions about Kane with Fabio Paratici – Juventus' former sporting director who recently took on the same role at Spurs.

"I played against him during his time with Tottenham and I am a really big fan of him.

"You can ask Fabio Paratici, he’ll confirm that because we spoke about Kane so much over the last few years.

"Now Fabio Paratici will have the opportunity to work with him at Tottenham and I'll have the 'good fortune' to come up against him tomorrow night.

"It's always nice to play strikers such as these. It will be a tough battle but an exciting one."

 

A possible ploy for England on Sunday would be for Kane to drop off the front and use his ability to thread throughballs for Raheem Sterling, who has scored three goals and provided an assist during a superb individual tournament.

"Everyone has their own attributes. If I try to match him in a footrace, me against Sterling, I don't think I'd ever beat him to the punch," Chiellini said.

"But maybe in situations where there's a ball to be won and it's a slightly more physical 50-50, or a long ball forward from the goalkeeper, I might be more likely to win the header. I need to try and limit their attributes.

"It almost makes me laugh because I think England's bench could have made it to the final on their own because they have some extraordinary players.

"We are going to try to limit their characteristics where we can, but thankfully it's not an individual game, it's a team game.

"It's not necessarily important whether Bonucci and Chiellini can stop Sterling and Kane; it's about whether Italy will beat England."

A noted no-nonsense defensive hardman over the course of his career, Chiellini has adopted a demeanour throughout Euro 2020 that has been at once jovial and somewhat terrifying, perhaps in line with the pre-tournament prescription he repeated on Saturday of Italy needing "just that hint of madness and cool heads".

 

He reacted with delight when a Kevin De Bruyne piledriver stuck him during the 2-1 quarter-final win over Belgium, while his playful jostling with Spain captain Jordi Alba before the semi-final penalty shoot-out was instant meme material.

"I really am savouring every last drop of my career. I've always got a smile on my face and I always try to have the utmost respect for my opponents," Chiellini said.

"I'm trying to hug them, smile, have a bit of a laugh. That's something I've always done and in these games I really am trying to enjoy every single moment, even more than I did in previous years."

On the Alba incident, Chiellini added: "No, it wasn't mind games by any means. That's how I am in good times and bad. My team-mates love me and there might be times when opponents like me less.

"After all these years, I think there is mutual respect between me and my opponents."

England will hope to end a 55-year major-tournament trophy drought on Sunday when they meet Italy in the Euro 2020 final, while Roberto Mancini is eyeing the crowning achievement of his transformational reign.

The Three Lions have not even qualified for a final since winning the 1966 World Cup and will be competing in their first European Championship decider. It will be Italy's third this century, though it is a competition they have not won in 53 years.

Although Italy's performances up to the final have generally attracted widespread acclaim, with the Azzurri stretching their unbeaten record to 33 matches, England will once again have the advantage as hosts.

England have won 15 of their previous 17 matches at Wembley, while seven of the previous 10 instances of a European nation competing in a major tournament final as hosts (World Cup/Euros) have ended in victory for the home side.

 

As much as anything, Gareth Southgate has cherished the chance to bring joy to fans so far at the tournament, but he is not kidding himself that adulation is a guarantee.

"I know we can make people's lives happier," he told the Telegraph. "It's a wonderful privilege to be able to make a difference, but if you get any of those bits wrong it can fall down and it's no use being able to speak about areas of society.

"If we don't get the tactical bit right, the selections right, if we don't manage the players the right way, the house falls down. I know now this is a lovely period in many ways, but we've got to get Sunday right."

Nevertheless, Italy have confounded their doubters every step of the way at Euro 2020, and Mancini, having taken over his national team in the wake of World Cup qualification failure three years ago, is a step away from completing one the great turnarounds in international football.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Marco Verratti

While Jorginho has arguably been the Italian midfielder to garner the most applause at Euro 2020, Verratti has been no less integral when on the pitch. Only Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (15) has started more open-play sequences ending in a shot than him (nine), while Kevin De Bruyne (13) is the sole individual with more chances created (12 for Verratti). He is not just important to Italy's flow in possession, but he also has a vital role as a creator – if England find a way to keep him quiet, their own title hopes will surely improve considerably.

England – Harry Kane

In a sense, Spain gave England something resembling a blueprint of how to nullify some of Italy's strengths. One aspect was Dani Olmo deployed as a false nine, with La Roja trying not to directly engage the Italian centre-backs while also creating a midfield overload. If any striker in world football is equipped to carry out a similar role, it's Kane. The Tottenham star remarkably got 12 open-play assists from 3.6 xA (expected assists) in the 2020-21 Premier League campaign, with as many as six coming from deeper positions. Granted, his over-performance of 8.4 suggests he benefited from some luck or good finishing, but it also proves how effective he can be.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Between them, England (2.2) and Italy (2.3) have faced fewer shots on target per game than any other sides at Euro 2020. England also have the lowest expected goals against tally in the competition so far (3.2).

- Italy have had 12 shots and scored three goals as a result of a high turnover (open play sequences beginning 40metres or less from opponents' goal line) at Euro 2020, more than any other side.

- England's 2-1 win over Denmark in the semi-final was their eighth win in a major tournament match under Southgate, moving him level with Alf Ramsey for joint most victories by an England manager across the two competitions.

- This is the third major tournament final to be held at Wembley Stadium. The previous two were both won in extra time, with England beating Germany in the 1966 World Cup, and Die Mannschaft then defeating the Czech Republic in Euro 1996.

- England are the 13th different nation to feature in a European Championship final (counting Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic as one) – just three of the previous 12 lost their first ever final in the competition: Yugoslavia (1960), Belgium (1980) and Portugal (2004).  

Harry Kane knows England must make home advantage count as the Three Lions aim to win a major tournament for only the second time.

England beat Denmark on Wednesday courtesy of Kane's extra-time goal to progress to their maiden European Championship final, and their first in any competition since 1966.

Kane's goal also saw him equal Gary Lineker as England's leading scorer in major tournaments, with 10.

Italy, playing in their 10th major tournament final (six at the World Cup, four at the Euros), stand in the way of Gareth Southgate's team, however.

The Three Lions will have the crowd firmly on side at Wembley on Sunday, though, and Kane – who stated winning with England would rank above winning a trophy at club level – is out to make history.

"It would mean everything to me and this team, for sure. I've said before: winning something with your nation would surpass anything you can do at club level, so we have that opportunity," he told UEFA.com.

"It's been a long time since our country was in a final, so we'll just have to grab it with both hands now.

"To be playing at Wembley makes the occasion even bigger and even more special. To have our own fans there singing and edging us on – the energy is going to be amazing. So there will be no better place to win our second major trophy than at Wembley again.

"It's a great moment in our history as a nation. The excitement is going to be through the roof; I'm sure there'll be a few nerves as well. It's just about going out there and feeding off all that energy in the stadium and the crowd and trying to use that to our advantage.

"Now we have that opportunity to create even more history, and [for] our parents and family members who've never seen England in a final before – and I know that goes across the whole country.

"It's a special moment to be in and if we can finish the job and win, then obviously we'll be remembered in history for the rest of our lives. That's the challenge we have, so we'll have to go and take it."

 

England are unbeaten in their last 12 matches in all competitions (W11 D1), keeping 10 clean sheets and conceding just two goals in the process.

In fact, they have conceded just one goal so far at Euro 2020, with four of the seven previous sides to concede just once in a European Championship tournament winning the trophy (Soviet Union 1960, Italy 1968, Germany 1972 and Spain 2012).

Italy, though, come into Sunday's game  – which sees the two sides to have faced the fewest shots at the tournament meet – on the back of a record-setting 33-match unbeaten run.

"It'll be a tough game. Italy are a great side. They've got a great a history of winning major tournaments as well," Kane added.

"They've got great experience in the team, they've got great individuals, but collectively they have a real togetherness. It's going to be a tough battle, but you know we've got more than enough in our team to win."

One fitness concern for Southgate could be Phil Foden, with the Manchester City attacker – who started the first two games of England's campaign – sitting out training on Saturday due to a minor knock.

Giorgio Chiellini is a big admirer of England striker Harry Kane but the veteran defender says Italy will have to be wary of threats from all over the pitch in Sunday's Euro 2020 final. 

Italy booked their spot in the final with a penalty shoot-out win over Spain on Tuesday, while England reached their first ever European Championship final thanks to Kane's extra-time winner against Denmark a day later. 

After a slow start to Euro 2020, Tottenham striker Kane has netted four times in the three knockout rounds and a goal in the final will see him become England's outright highest goalscorer in major tournaments (currently 10, level with Gary Lineker). 

The Three Lions captain scored six times at World Cup 2018, repeating Lineker's feat from 1986 of winning the golden boot. 

He is behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick (both five) in the scoring charts at Euro 2020, with another tournament golden boot firmly in his sights.

Chiellini has been superb for the Azzurri throughout their run to the final and the Juventus defender knows he will have to be at his best to keep a resurgent Kane quiet. 

"It will be tough, extremely tough," he told Euro2020.com. 

"I have always liked Harry Kane a lot. I still remember one of his first matches with England, when we played against them in Turin [on Kane's full England debut, a 1-1 draw in 2015]. Even then he made a huge impression on me. 

"I was lucky enough to play against him in a game against Tottenham. He knows how to play deep and how to play a defence-splitting pass for a team-mate. He scores with his head and from long and close range."

 

England's abundance of talent in attack means Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish have managed just one start between them. 

Despite talking up Kane’s talents, Chiellini has warned his Azzurri team-mates to be on high alert should any of that trio make an appearance on Sunday.

"England are clearly not just Kane because they have amazing players on both wings and their substitutes could all be in the starting XI of a team that wins this competition," he added.

"Players like Grealish,Sancho, Rashford, [Dominic] Calvert-Lewin, [Phil] Foden were all on the bench but they're top players, including [Jordan] Henderson. 

"It will be a great match. Neither team will be afraid but both will have a lot of respect for each other."

The clash will be Italy's 10th major tournament final (six World Cup, four European Championship), with only Germany (14) having played in more among European nations. 

Roberto Mancini's men won the European Championship in 1968, but have lost their subsequent two final appearances in the competition (2000 and 2012).

Harry Kane says for once it went England's way after scoring the winner in extra-time to book their place at the Euro 2020 final against Italy.

England won 2-1 over Denmark with Kane scoring an 104th-minute winner, firing home the rebound after his penalty was initially saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

The opportunity came after England were forced to come from behind following Mikkel Damsgaard's spectacular 30th-minute free-kick.

England equalised from a Simon Kjaer own goal prior to half-time, before Raheem Sterling won a penalty in extra-time after slight contact from Joakim Maehle.

The win secures England's first appearance at a European Championship final, after a history of inglorious failures and cruel exits at major events, headlined by Gareth Southgate's missed penalty at Euro 96 and Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal at the 1986 World Cup.

"For once it went our way today," Kane told ITV. "Credit to the boys, what a performance.

"We responded really well to going 1-0 down, we controlled the game, dug deep in extra-time, got the penalty, and when it’s your night, it’s your night."

Kane would have felt a moment of panic as his penalty low to Schmeichel's left was saved by the Danish custodian, but the Tottenham forward had the opportunity to lash home from the loose ball.

"I chose the side I was going to go, it wasn't the best penalty I've ever taken," Kane told uefa.com. "Sometimes you miss and it falls your way, and thankfully it did today."

Kane reiterated manager Southgate's sentiment that there was one step to go as England seek to end their continental title wait.

The Three Lions will take on one-time winners Italy in Sunday's final at Wembley Stadium.

"We know it's going to be a very tough game against Italy," Kane said. "We've had a great tournament so far. One more game to go at home, and we can't wait."

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