Harry Kane draws high praise from Spain as Spurs striker sets sights on Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Gareth Southgate revealed Spain manager Julen Lopetegui admitted he'd 'love' the England striker in his own side

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Sunday 03 September 2017 22:40
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Spain manager Julen Lopetegui told Gareth Southgate how fortunate England were to have Harry Kane up front, as the Tottenham striker now targets the goal records of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The revelation, made by Southgate at his press conference at Tottenham’s training base on Sunday afternoon, shows just what high regard Kane is held in all over Europe. The Spurs striker has won the Premier League golden boot for the last two seasons and can claim, alongside Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata, to be one of the best centre-forwards in Europe. So much so that Lopetegui, who has Morata as his first choice for the Spain national team, told Southgate recently he would love to have Kane up front.

“I was having some interaction with Julen Lopetegui at a game where he was commenting on how lucky I was to have Harry playing,” Southgate said.

Kane may have started the season slowly for Tottenham but Southgate talked up his form, now that he has three goals in his last five games. He has 10 goals in 20 caps for England now and Southgate said that he was targeting becoming one of the best players in the world and reaching the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“He's in top form, but he's also got the mentality to want to be the best,” Southgate said. “He knew this morning how many goals in games he had, and also how many Ronaldo and Messi had at this point. He is driven to be one of the world's best. Why can't that happen moving forward?” Kane turned 24 in late July and already has 125 career goals for club and country. At the same age Ronaldo had 137 but Messi had 203.

Southgate has been working with Kane for four years, giving him his England Under-21 debut back in October 2013 and then taking him to the European Under-21 Championship in June 2015. He is confident Kane will continue to flourish under pressure, just as he has been doing for Tottenham for the last three seasons.

“I have every trust in Harry,” Southgate said. “I've worked with him long enough, from the Under-21s through, and he'll deliver whatever the occasion. He relishes the occasions. You've got to have that drive and belief, and that's what he's got. He had that when we weren't picking him in the Under-21s. He'd come and say: 'Hold on a minute, why? What's the rationale?' I never minded that self-belief. He's doing that for Spurs, and now in the biggest matches.”

The fact that Kane is so good, and has only just turned 24, gave Southgate even more faith that he will get even better. “We're still talking about a 24-year-old, so there's still much more to come from him,” he said. “Alan [Shearer] was 25 when he was top scorer in Euro 96. Harry is still in the early stages of his career.”

Malta 0-4 England: Harry Kane on his August goal draught

And yet despite Kane’s brilliance, and the fact that Spain would love to have him, Southgate admitted that England could not dream of comparing themselves with Lopetegui’s side. On Saturday evening Spain thumped Italy 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier at the Bernabeu, showing a level of performance beyond anything England could hope to produce.

“How could we possibly compare ourselves to a team who have Champions League winners throughout, and who have a World Cup and European Championships under their belt,” Southgate said. “We are a work in progress.”

Kane struck twice against Malta on Friday

“We have some players like Phil [Jones] who have won trophies, but a lot who have won none. We have nowhere near the number of caps. But we have some exciting young players who can be really good going forward, but will have to go through some of the hardships those Spaniards went through to get where they are. Real Madrid and Barca in the last four of the Champions League every year. None of our clubs have appeared in the last four of the Champions League for a long, long time. So the big international experience is coming from club football as well.”

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