Gareth Southgate said Harry Kane is so “driven to be one of the world’s best” that he constantly compares his statistics to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He also added that despite his admission that his side were far behind Spain, their coach Julen Lopetegui had told him he was “lucky” to have Kane in his team.
Kane is 24 years and has scored 125 career goals. By the same age Ronaldo, who had played most of his games as a wide player to that point, had 137 goals. Messi was way ahead on 203. Not that Kane is deterred.
“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. “He’s in top form, but he’s also got the mentality to want to be the best. He knew this morning how many goals in games he had, and also how many Ronaldo and Messi had at this point. He’s driven to be one of the world’s best. Why can’t that happen moving forward?”
Kane is a strong contender to be England captain under Southgate – even though Jordan Henderson will retain the armband for the World Cup qualifier against Slovakia at Wembley on Monday – and the manager added: “I have every trust in Harry. I’ve worked with him long enough, from the Under-21s through, and he’ll deliver whatever the occasion.”
“We’re still talking about a 24-year-old, so there’s still much more to come from him. Alan (Shearer) was 25/26 when he was top scorer in (Euro) 96. Harry is still in the early stages of his career, but was top-scorer in the league two years running and is in a really good place.”
Kane has scored five times in his last three England appearances – and now has 10 goals after 20 caps – with Southgate saying he brimming with confidence. “You’ve got to have that drive and belief, and that’s what he’s got,” he said. “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.”
England will play Slovakia, the second-placed team in Group F, and a win can seal their qualification for next summer’s World Cup. It would leave them five points clear with two matches to go with Southgate, who celebrated his 47th birthday on Sunday, declaring it could be a “defining” fixture for him. “The result can virtually get us to Russia,” he said.
For this fixture, Southgate will retain Henderson as Captain, who led England in last Friday’s 4-0 away win against Malta. “Jordan Henderson stays, there’s no point in changing that. Normally the captain stays the same for the two games unless we change the team.” Southgate said, By that rationale it would suggest the man ‘in possession’ of the captaincy would remain in the role as long as he remains in the team, although Henderson himself said that Southgate had told the players he was planning not to have a permanent appointment.
“Obviously Harry was captain in the last few games, Joe (Hart) has been captain before, Gary’s (Cahill) been captain before and so I think there’s still a few people who can do the job but the gaffer doesn’t want to give that responsibility to one person, he wants to divide it and I think it’s a good idea,”
“It’s a huge honour to captain your country but we’ve spoken together to the gaffer, he wants to bring leaders through the group. I’m sure that’ll change through the campaign, different people will be captaining the team and it’s good that we’ll encourage more leaders to captain the team.” Henderson said.