Southgate says Kane can be as good as Messi or Ronaldo

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England head coach Gareth Southgate says Harry Kane continually compares himself to Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal tallies, and believes he can reach those heights.

The Tottenham striker scored twice in the 4-0 England win over Malta on Friday, and he has five goals in his last three international matches. That gives him eight goals in just 19 caps, a furious pace should he keep it up through the next few years.

“He’s in top form,” Southgate said of Kane ahead of England’s next qualifier against Slovakia, “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?”

Obviously there’s a long way to go, but Kane’s current pace is just behind Ronaldo’s 78 goals in 144 caps, and nearly even with Messi’s 58 goals in 118 caps. The Telegraph points out that Kane’s total career goals are just slightly behind Ronaldo at the same age, and a good distance behind Messi at that stage. According to Southgate, Kane knows all the numbers, international and overall, and at his young age, he could have a long, productive career ahead.

“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 will also only go as far as his team will take him. In Shearer’s days, England was at the top of the world rankings and reaching the latter stages of tournaments, allowing him more games to reach milestones. In Euro 1996, Shearer was able to be top scorer because England reached the semifinals. Kane and England, meanwhile, were knocked out of Euro 2016 in the Round of 16, while Ronaldo and Portugal won the tournament, allowing Cristiano to reach 5 goals, one off Antoine Griezmann’s lead.

“You’ve got to have that drive and belief, and that’s what he’s got,” Southgate said of Kane. “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.”