Harry Kane scored more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in 2017, but it is on the Champions League stage the prolific Tottenham striker must deliver to be truly measured against the five-time World Players of the Year.
Kane gets his chance when Europe’s premier club competition returns on Tuesday as he leads Spurs into the lion’s den of Juventus’ Allianz stadium in Turin, where the Italians have lost once in 27 Champions League games.
“Massive game but that’s what you look forward to as a player,” said Kane after deciding the North London derby in Spurs’ favour on Saturday with his 32nd goal of the season.
“You want to test yourself against the best and Juventus have been amazing in the Champions League recently, so looking forward to it.”
They don’t come much better than Juve’s defence, led by legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and veteran rugged defender Giorgio Chiellini, who have conceded once in their last 16 games.
“Harry Kane is a fantastic player. He played against us three years ago and he has really improved,” Chiellini told the Daily Mail newspaper.
“Now he scores more than Messi in a calendar year…and that’s very different to scoring more than Chiellini!”
The Italian champions blunted Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar over two legs to dump out Barcelona on route to their second final in three years last season.
And German midfielder Sami Khedira believes stopping Kane will be just as big a task.
“Harry Kane for me is maybe the most complete striker,” the German midfielder told the BBC.
“He is strong, good with his head, fast, good with his feet, can score with one touch, he can dribble.
“For me he’s an amazing player and still young, so Tottenham are lucky to have him.”
– ‘Present and future’ –
How long they will have is a constant source of speculation as despite steady progress in four seasons under Mauricio Pochettino, Kane is still to win any silverware in his career.
Pochettino insisted Kane is Tottenham’s “present and future” after he once again proved Arsenal’s scourge with his seventh goal in as many North London derbies on Saturday.
“Sometimes you believe that he is my player and I try to boost him,” added the Argentine.
“I’m telling you and I tell again, in my experience in football, he is one of the best.”
Even opposition managers are lining up to hail Kane as world class.
“We were caught by a super striker, he is one of the best in the world. He scores against everyone,” said Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, a week after Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp suggested England could challenge for the World Cup this summer with Kane on their side.
Spurs’ dramatic improvement on the European stage this season has mirrored that of their talisman after a disappointing Champions League debut last season.
Kane has six goals in six games in the competition this season, only Ronaldo with nine has more.
However, with Real Madrid facing Paris Saint-Germain in a blockbuster clash there is the potential for the Portuguese and Messi to be dethroned as the Champions League’s top scorer for the first time since 2007.
Should Kane break down Juve’s defensive wall on his way to ending their reign, comparisons with Messi and Ronaldo will truly be justified.
But it would also put even more pressure on Spurs to resist offers from around Europe with Madrid possibly in the market for a successor to the 33-year-old Ronaldo come the summer.