Harry Kane still holds up Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as standard-bearers despite the superstar duo’s disappointing World Cup.
Messi and Ronaldo both bowed out in the last 16, Argentina going down 4-3 to France in a thrilling encounter before Portugal were undone 2-1 by Uruguay.
Kane has at least gone one better than the pair in that regard, England having progressed to the quarter-finals thanks to Tuesday’s nerve-jangling penalty shoot-out win over Colombia.
The Three Lions will meet Sweden in Samara on Saturday and, facing the media a day prior to kick-off, Kane insisted the men who have won the Ballon d’Or in each of the past 10 years between them still represent the pinnacle of the game in his eyes.
‘Ronaldo and Messi, you can never write them off, they’ve not had the tournament they wanted to but they’re still two of the best players in the world,’ said Kane, who leads the race for the Golden Boot with six goals.
‘For me they’re still an inspiration, they set a bar that we have to try and reach.
‘So I’m very pleased with how it’s gone so far, I want to keep pushing and getting better and that’s down to what they achieved in their career.’
Sitting alongside Kane was manager Gareth Southgate, who was asked if he felt there was a changing of the guard as a new wave of talent, including Kane, begins to shine.
‘Personally I think the world always changes, teams go through evolutions and the teams that have been dominant for a long time, their team has an era that’s very strong,’ he said.
‘It’s unusual to constantly be at the top, younger players come through and new teams emerge and I think we’re seeing a bit of that at this tournament.
‘Exciting young players across the world are announcing themselves and to do that on the world stage.. .it’s fantastic for Harry.
‘To score goals on the world stage is another level of achievement, I’m delighted for him that he’s individually doing well and that’s helping us enormously as a team.’
This story originally appeared on FourFourTwo.co.za