Tottenham's Kane wants to 'be up there' with Messi, Ronaldo one day
LONDON -- Record-breaker Harry Kane says the criticism he faced early in his career is "always in the back of my mind" as the Tottenham striker aims to match the consistency of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Kane scored back-to-back hat tricks against Burnley and Southampton to surpass Barcelona superstar Messi as the highest scorer in elite European football in 2017 and break Alan Shearer's record for Premier League goals in a calendar year, set in 1995. Kane finished the year with 56 goals for club and country, of which 39 were scored in the league.
The 24-year-old is also on course for a third consecutive Premier League Golden Boot, but many doubted he could continue his form after scoring 21 goals in a breakthrough campaign in 2014-15, prompting the Spurs fans to chant, "He's just a one-season wonder" in the 5-2 win over the Saints on Boxing Day.
"[The criticism] is always in the back of my mind," Kane said. "I've always said that when people doubt me I want to prove them wrong. Whether it was at a young age or now, that's just my mindset, something in me since a young age. I'll keep getting better, keep trying to improve. It's a funny song for our fans to sing and I'll keep doing it for nine, 10 seasons and see where it takes me."
From 2010-2016, either Messi or Real Madrid's Ronaldo finished as the highest goalscorer in Europe over the course of the year, with Messi scoring an unbelievable 91 goals in all competitions in 2012.
Kane has targeted breaking the duo's monopoly as the top two players in the world and says "nicking ahead" of Messi this year has made him particularly proud.
"They're both great [records] but the club and country one is good as it shows I'm doing it at all levels -- the Champions League, [for] England -- not just in one competition. That's what I'm very proud of," added Kane, who said he would take all his Tottenham teammates out for a meal to thank them.
"When you look at Messi and Ronaldo, I've obviously still got a long way to go before I can be compared to them but it's a start and that's what I want to do: keep improving and be up there one day.
"That's always the goal -- to be bracketed with the best players in the world. Messi and Ronaldo have set that standard for so long now. To nick ahead is something I'm proud of and it's just the start for me. I want to do it year in year out. They've done it for eight, nine years now so to be classed in that bracket that's what I've got to do. That's my aim.
"Everyone is an individual and I'm my own person. I'll do everything I can to improve, whether it's on the pitch, off the pitch or in training. Whatever it is, I'll keep looking for one percent to get better. It's so important in the Premier League. That's the difference between winning and losing sometimes. If I can keep myself fit and healthy, we'll see what happens."
Hugo Lloris, the Tottenham and France captain who is a former teammate of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, said Kane is the best forward he has played with but he warned the striker that maintaining his current level would be his greatest challenge.
"I've never played with a striker able to score so many goals in a year. I've played with a lot of top strikers and he is the best I've played with," the goalkeeper said.
"He's up there and he deserves all the praise at the moment. Now the most difficult is coming because he has to stick to this level. But with his mentality and his quality I have no doubts. He's one of the best and he's going to keep showing it.
"The perception from outside is different now," Lloris explained. "He's got another consideration from the fans, from the media. But I think he has his head on his shoulders and he has a lot of humility and that's the key. He will keep working hard and I'm sure he will keep breaking records because that's his mentality.
"It's every day. It's how he is. From his education, from his parents, his hunger, his desire. It's his mentality. When you always want to push your limits. He does every day. When he feels that he needs to work in front of the goal, he's going to stay a few more hours in the afternoon at the training ground to practice and practice and practice.
"He always wants to improve himself. Even if he scores one goal in the game, he wants to score two or three. He's a goal machine.
"His job is to score goals and we see this mentality every day. He's the best example for all the young players in the academy because he's got the right mentality and to be honest I'm very, very pleased for him because he deserves it."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.