"For me, with his attitude, he can be one of the best centre-forwards in the world one day. He has a spirit you can compare to [Cristiano] Ronaldo and he works every day." The quote of a professional footballer complimenting a teammate. Was this player referring to Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Luis Suarez? Diego Costa, perhaps? No, this was Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen discussing young English striker Harry Kane.
The Belgian centre-back praised Kane to high heaven on the back of the striker's performance in Spurs' 5-1 Europa League win over Astera Tripolis last month, a match in which he bagged a hat-trick. Erik Lamela's 'rabona' may have been the talking point of the encounter, but Kane deserved ample credit after an effective offensive display. The 21-year-old has set the Europa League alight this season with a string of eye-catching performances for Spurs, and he is the joint-top scorer in Europe's second competition this term (5).
Meanwhile, Kane's WhoScored rating in the Europa League (7.83) is the best of all Spurs players and ranks among the top 20 performers in the competition this season. His fine form in Europe had supporters pining for him to start in the Premier League and after his free-kick won Spurs all three points in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa at the beginning of the month, a victory followed up by a 2-1 win at Asteras in which Kane also netted, fans finally got their wish.
The youngster started the 2-1 home defeat to Stoke before the international break, and while he failed to net against the Potters, he held onto his starting berth and duly scored in Sunday's 2-1 win at Hull. While his start was in part due to the absences of Nacer Chadli and Emmanuel Adebayor, Kane did his chances of retaining his spot when they return no harm in the win at the KC Stadium.
The common misconception, however, is that Kane is an out-and-out striker. With Adebayor under performing and Roberto Soldado misfiring, calls for the England U21 international to lead the Spurs attack had been growing with each passing week. His first league start this term came against Stoke, where Mauricio Pochettino fielded Kane as the lone frontman.
The fans' favourite was underwhelming in the defeat, however. Continuously dropping deep to look for the ball, he often clogged up the space that would normally be occupied by Christian Eriksen. As a result, the Dane was hugely ineffective, securing a WhoScored rating of 5.89 before being withdrawn at the interval. Kane faired better (WhoScored rating 6.62), but his performance was below par for a player who is looking to secure a regular starting berth.
In the win over Hull, though, Kane was deployed in the attacking three behind Soldado with Eriksen and Erik Lamela either side of him. Unsurprisingly, Kane turned out an improved display (WhoScored rating 7.13) in a role in which he is obviously more comfortable. The attacker was more involved in play (56 touches against Hull compared to 30 against Stoke) and justified his selection with the equaliser in Sunday's encounter.
In fact, two of Kane's six starts have come in the number 10 role in the Premier League and Europa League this season and it's in this position where he has earned his best WhoScored rating (7.94) and scored four of his seven goals. It's evident that he is much better suited to this role. The problem for Pochettino, however, is how to accommodate his attacking midfielders and Kane into a starting XI. Chadli has excelled on the left side of the trio behind the striker this season, while Eriksen and Lamela have, along with Chadli helped providfe the bulk to Spurs' goals and assists. Kane's form now swells the options available to Pochettino.
However, it remains to be seen what Kane's strongest attribute is. He is not the quickest, nor is he the most skillful, but Kane's mental attributes are what stand him in good stead. The youth academy product is clearly a very clever player off the ball and has the knowhow to find space in the final third, which he can then exploit, be it by creating for others or going for goal himself.
Having developed statistically calculated strengths of 'finishing', 'dribbling' and 'holding on to the ball', Kane boasts the necessary attributes to link the midfield and attack. While he is unlikely to reach Ronaldo levels of excellence, as per Vertonghen's suggestion, Kane has started to realise his potential under Pochettino after rising to the fore under Tim Sherwood.
It remains to be seen whether or not Chadli or Adebayor, or even both, will be available for the weekend meeting with Everton, but Kane will be hoping to secure a third consecutive league regardless of their return. Judging by his performances behind the lone frontman in Pochetino's favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, however, a start against the Toffees would certainly be deserved.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com