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Real Madrid and Barcelona would only be interested in Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling from England's squad

Real Madrid and Barcelona don't settle for second best when it comes to box office moves in the transfer market, so given that England reached the World Cup semifinals during the summer and the Premier League is the biggest league in the world, surely any Englishman flourishing in his domestic competition would be a contender for a move to the Santiago Bernabeu or Camp Nou, right?

But as Gareth Southgate's men prepare to face Spain in Seville on Monday night, the reality is that only Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling would prompt Spain's two biggest clubs to send their scouts down to the Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Marcus Rashford, at 20, is a forward with the potential to be a world star, but the Manchester United youngster's promise still has flaws to be ironed out, as highlighted by his poor finishing in Friday's 0-0 Nations League stalemate against Croatia in Rijeka which saw him miss two clear chances.

Kyle Walker (the standout right-back for City) and Kieran Trippier (who made the World Cup team of the tournament) have their qualities, but neither is certain of their place at right-back for their country. Both still have to prove themselves at the highest level consistently before the likes of Barca or Real would take notice.

It is Kane and Sterling who have consistently risen above the pack in the Premier League to attract the attention of Europe's elite.

Tottenham forward Kane has repeatedly hit more than 20 league goals a season for his club and he returned from Russia 2018 with the Golden Boot as the World Cup's top scorer, so he is the stand-out candidate, especially given Real Madrid have been struggled with a goal drought of late.

Having lost star players to Spain before (notably Gareth Bale and Luka Modric), Spurs would be loath to do so again and could legitimately ignore any offer that valued Kane any less than the £198m world record that Paris Saint-Germain had to pay Barcelona for Neymar in the summer of 2017.

The 25-year-old has had a slower than usual start to this season, but he has still managed six goals in 10 appearances in the league and Champions League, which is three more than Mohamed Salah has scored for Liverpool in 11 outings so far this term.

Kane, alongside Salah and Eden Hazard, is the star Premier League name that every top club in the world would pursue if he became available. But Manchester City forward Sterling is not far behind, even though many would argue that his international record of just two goals in 45 appearances is reason enough to steer clear of the 23-year-old.

Few players divide opinion quite like Sterling. Perhaps it is rooted in his departure from Liverpool to Manchester City in 2015 -- a messy, acrimonious move which did little for his reputation and seems to have cemented many people's opinions.

But his club form for City -- 23 goals last season and four in 10 games this term -- is one of the reasons why he is so sought-after, with sources telling ESPN FC that Real Madrid are monitoring his contract situation at the Etihad.

Sterling's deal expires in June 2020, so next summer is a crucial period for the player. City will not allow one of their stars to leave easily, but his stats and age make him a prime target.

While his international return is poor -- he was a frustrating performer at the World Cup, too -- Southgate will point to the fact that Sterling's pace and direct running causes problems for opponents and creates space for his teammates. With City, those same qualities apply, but he also scores by the bucketload because he is alongside better players and gets more chances in each game.

How he and Kane perform in Seville on Monday night will be noted by those clubs with more than one eye on their progress and availability.

Scouts say that the best place to judge a player is when they are playing in a difficult game away from home and there are few tougher challenges than facing Spain in Seville -- they have played 14 times in the Benito Villamarin, winning 13 and losing just once, against France, 27 years ago.

Time will tell whether Kane or Sterling do enough over the coming months to persuade one of Europe's superpowers to make their move. But it is a measure of England's current status -- an emerging team with promising youngsters -- that only two of their crop would alert the world's biggest clubs.

Until Southgate can count on five or six players in that category, England will always be facing an uphill battle when it comes to winning on the international stage.


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