Ballon d'Or-nominated Harry Kane is the complete centre-forward

The Tottenham and England striker deserves to be regarded in the same category as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

England's striker Harry Kane catches the ball on the touchline during the 2018 FIFA World Cup European Qualifying football match between Lithuania and England at the LFF Stadium in Vilnius on October 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS
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With World Cup qualification secured, Gareth Southgate's England players will breathe a double sigh of relief. Firstly, for having punched their ticket to Russia next year, and secondly so they can return to their respective employers and the warm embrace of their own supporters.

It is hard to fathom how England's lacklustre campaign saw them qualify for Russia with a game to spare while a Switzerland team that had registered nine consecutive victories are still not assured of their automatic place ahead of Tuesday's final Group B encounter in Portugal. The disconnect between team and supporters has grown wider in each of Southgate's 12 games in charge, to the point where throwing paper airplanes on to the pitch elicited the biggest cheer of the night in last week's laboured win over Slovenia.

Although Southgate's squad lack cohesion and penetration, they do boast a striker who is kicking down the door to world-class with every passing performance. Harry Kane's customary August of austerity has been replaced by a goal rush September-October. Twin strikes against Slovenia and Lithuania took the Tottenham Hotspur striker's tally this calendar year to 43 in 37 appearances for club and country. That is more 2017 goals than West Ham United and several other clubs currently in the bottom half of the Premier League.

To cap the early season revival, Kane was on Monday named on a 30-man shortlist to win this year's Ballon d'Or.



It is no surprise Kane, 24, is the only Englishman included on the list; he is the complete centre-forward: lean, strong, can finish with both feet, a workhorse, and a focal point of the attack. He may lack explosive pace, but is no slouch. He may not be a target man, but is good in the air. He may not bully defenders, but is seldom a victim. Despite Southgate's reservations about naming a full-time national team captain, Kane is the leader of the pack. He is the one player Spurs and England's hopes rest on.

Kane's four most recent games has seen him score thrice in the Uefa Champions League, twice in the Premier League (he could easily have had four against Huddersfield Town but for the woodwork), and once each against Slovenia and Lithuania, with goals ranging from spectacular to plundering, quick-thinking to calm under pressure. All this predominantly away from "home", too.

Imagine what Kane will do when he and the rest of his Tottenham teammates do finally settle in to their temporary Wembley surroundings.

Kane's calendar year saw him win last season's Premier League Golden Boot ahead of Sergio Aguero and Romelu Lukaku and also notch his 100th Tottenham goal. For all his exploits, however, Kane is unlikely to walk away with the best player prize in December with Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo favourite to pick up his fifth world player of the year award to level with Lionel Messi.

Being regarded in such exalted company as the world's two best players, as well as the world's other leading marksmen in Neymar, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Paulo Dybala shows England and Spurs have a talisman who is the envy of others, one recognised by a panel of journalists outside of those too easily caught up in the hubris of the Premier League's own bubble.

Kane will fancy his chances of adding to his six Premier League goals on Saturday when Spurs face a Bournemouth side second from bottom in the table. Eddie Howe's side have conceded 11 goals in their seven matches so far and face an in-form Kane who has become irreplaceable for both club and country and is rightly regarded as one of the world's best.

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