Harry Kane: Is England star on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo? | Football | Sport

So what on earth has got? Just belief and mental strength to outdo the pair of them. Oh, and a pretty decent eye for goal.

Since he first really started to make waves under then Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood in 2014, people have scratched their heads in wonderment at why Kane is as successful as he has been.

While no slouch, he is not the fastest. He is not overly tall. He is strong, but not overbearing. He possesses none of the tricks which beat defenders all ends up and make you a YouTube hero.

But, boy, does he score goals. Memorably, back in October, he was closing in on Alan Shearer’s record for most Premier League goals in a calendar year. Already he had his eye on beating and scoring the highest number of goals in a calendar year.


Harry Kane scored two for England against Tunisia

They set the standards, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, so for the rest of us it’s about trying to catch them and get up there

Harry Kane

“They set the standards, and Lionel Messi, so for the rest of us it’s about trying to catch them and get up there,” Kane had said earnestly that day in the bowels of Wembley.

Of course it was hard to take him seriously. Yet now, one match each into the World Cup finals, he sits with Romelu Lukaku between the pair of them, one goal behind Ronaldo, two ahead of Messi.

Does that mean we now have finally to believe Kane and see him as world class?

Gareth Southgate pauses for a moment. “I’m going to keep challenging him on that because I’m always a little uncertain as to what that title means and what you need to do to really gain it,” he says eventually.

By challenging Kane, the England manager hopes to get the same rewards Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has enjoyed.

“He was a frustrated guy when I arrived, out of form with the habits of a player in his thirties,” Pochettino recounted in his recent book. After the Tunisia game, though, he was full of praise.

“Poch texted me,” said Kane. “And after the game as well – he sent a lot of love hearts and said, ‘Come on England!’

“He is rooting for me. He has a lot of lads here. He is not just my boss, he’s my mate…he’s the manager, but he’s a friend as well. He wants me and the whole team to do well.”

Pochettino need not have bothered. Since those bad habits became good habits, things generally have gone well for Kane.

As an England captain, there are striking similarities with two-times European Footballer of the Year Kevin Keegan. By no means the outstanding talent of his generation, but somebody who makes the best of himself through quiet determination and remarkable attention to detail.

Lionel Messi REUTERS

Harry Kane has his eye on beating Lionel Messi to scoring the highest number of goals in a calendar

“I wake up, eat, chill out, get some treatment – massage and a bit of ‘flush’,” Kane said of his unchanging match-day preparations, for example.

“I try not to think about the game too much, I try to think positive, think about scoring, about doing well.

“Some people like to be on their phones up to an hour before the warm-up. I text or speak to the missus, I FaceTime the little one, then listen to music. I stay off social media, stay off texts, and try to prepare. I am not someone who does too much, I try and stay in the moment and that helps.

“It is the fear of the unknown and anticipation that makes me nervous. There were some nerves, there was some excitement.

“But it was about playing well and playing my normal game. Once I score, it eased my nerves. Then I waited for another to fall my way and thankfully it did.”

It seems a long two years since Kane’s failure to make a mark at Euro 2016.

Cristiano RonaldoRETUERS

Kane is one goal behind Ronaldo so far in the World Cup finals and two ahead of Messi

“I have been itching to get out there and showcase myself on the big stage,” he admitted. “We have been in Russia a long time, we have been excited.

“The Euros was disappointing for me, for everyone, it is a challenge to put that right and there is no better way to do it than to win and score a couple of goals. I said before I was so excited to be at a World Cup and it is about proving a point.”

He is certainly proving it so far. “We are fortunate to have him,” Southgate conceded.

“You see that belief in the top, top players – the Gerrards, the Shearers and the Lampards – and he’s shown that over a period of time now in the league.

“The next stage was to do that at a world tournament and that’s how you really establish yourself as a leading world player.

“Now he’s off and running.”

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