Gareth Southgate reeled off the names of football’s world class strikers – and believes Harry Kane belongs in their company.
Kane’s statistics this season are incredible as he has scored 28 goals in all competitions for club and country, provided 17 assists and that puts him in the world class bracket.
Southgate name checked Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku and Kylian Mbappe as the other best strikers in the world and it is hard to argue that Kane does not belong in that company.
Perhaps a bigger concern for Kane is the top strikers establish themselves as global superstars by scoring goals in the Champions League and that is why the doubts will continue to grow around his future.
Lewandowski is arguably the best No9 in the world because of his achievements with Bayern Munich, Mbappe is a sensation with Paris Saint Germain and playing among Europe’s elite is essential for their career path.
But England captain Kane is also the reason why Southgate’s men will believe they have a genuine chance of winning the Euros this summer because he is such a deadly finisher.
Three Lions boss Southgate said: “There are not many outright No9s in the world at the moment at really elite level.
“Lukaku is obviously one. The two boys we’re speaking about – Kane and Lewandowski – are. I suppose Aguero has been.
“But you don’t get that profile of forwards so often, there’s a lot more of the interchangeable forward players that can play as an inside forward or a wide forward and be devastating in those areas, like Mbappe who can play 9 but is normally just as effective in those wider areas.
“They’re difficult to come by and when you’ve got one like we have, gives you a reference point, can lead the line, can link and as we said the other day, not just top goalscorer in the Premier League but top for assists as well, it’s a fantastic player to have in our group.”
Kane’s all round game has gone to a different level as he is provider as well as goalscorer now, his link-up play has never been better and his assists alone are worth their weight in gold never mind his goals.
But the TV pundits, Ian Wright and Roy Keane, discussing England’s win over Albania actually debated whether Kane drops too deep and should just concentrate on being a striker.
Southgate, who used to be one of ITV’s studio pundits, immediately answered the concerns and insisted that Kane is intelligent enough as a player to know when to stay in the box and when to drop deep.
“I think different people have different opinions on the game,” said Southgate. “For example, if Ian Wright was doing the game then Wrighty was always much better on the last line running in behind people or flying into he box.
“His link play was good but was a different sort of player to Harry so he might have a different view of the role of a No 9 and there’s lots of different ways of playing it.
“I think Harry senses the moments to drop deep and create space for others and just to give defenders a different picture or problem to think about.
“In my view his football intelligence is very good, the key is if he is dropping deep then we have to have runners in behind which we did with Raheem, Phil and Prowsy. I don’t think in itself its a problem, to mix the game up and give the opposition different things to deal with is fine.”