Record-breaking Harry Kane surpasses Messi, Ronaldo

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LONDON — No player in Europe’s top five leagues has scored more goals in all competitions for club and country than Harry Kane in 2017.

Think about that.

Kane, 24, has been consistently excellent and on Boxing Day in the 5-2 win against Southampton, his final game of 2017, he scored a hat trick, his second in four days in the PL as he celebrated wildly at Wembley with Spurs’ fans.

His latest treble meant he had not only become the highest scorer in a calendar year in Premier League history but also surpassed the likes of Lionel Messi, Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo as the top scorer among Europe’s top five leagues with 56 goals in 52 appearances all competitions for club and country over the past 12 months. He also played in the fewest games of those four aforementioned players.

Simply stunning.

Kane was beaming from ear to ear as he spoke to Sky Sports after the game about his exploits.

“It has been a fantastic year. To get compared to those players – the Messis and Shearers – is what it is all about. To get another hat-trick is a great way to end the year. It is always about improving every year. That’s what I always have done throughout my career and it is what I will continue to do,” Kane said.

“It was hard not to think about it, being level going into the game. I wanted to win the game but of course I wanted to score as a striker. Getting that record was a great feeling. I’ve improved physically – recovery for games, getting ready for each game, eating right and ice baths. I feel good and sharp and at my bet at this busy period. They are fantastic players here. It’s fantastic to play with them. We’re a hard team to stop and I said to them before the game to try and set me up and they did that, so I’ll have to take them out for dinner.”

Speaking to the media after the game, Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli praised his professionalism, so too did his manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Kane’s journey from being called a “one season wonder” following his breakout campaign in 2014-15 has been the stuff of dreams for the Spurs academy product.

His manager who gave him a chance in the first team at Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino, waxed lyrical about Kane’s achievements when he spoke to the media after the game.

“Harry is world-class. Of course, Messi and Cristiano are different. Today – one striker in the world, a specific position – who is better than Harry? It’s difficult to say he’s the best but he’s shown to everyone he’s one of the best,” Pochettino said. “Both of his records are massive – to break the Premier League record set by Alan Shearer and then, if you see that over the last seven, eight or nine years, it’s always Messi and Cristiano and now, it’s Harry as well.”

Kane said he was “honored” to be mentioned in the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo but you seen a steely determination, and hunger, to surpass his wonderful achievements in 2017.

Breaking Alan Shearer’s longtime record as the leading scorer in a calendar year in the PL proved Kane’s incredible consistency over the past 12 months, but the two-time reigning PL golden boot winner has also hoisted himself onto the next level of goalscorers.

He is scoring goals in the UEFA Champions League regularly, battering opponents in the PL and is England’s main man heading into the 2018 World Cup next summer.

When all is said and done, we will look back at 2017 as being the year a true legend was made.

Harry Kane is certainly not a “one season wonder” and his amazing stats prove he is the best goalscorer, and one of the best players, on the planet right now.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.