Harry Kane has said Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi remain the benchmark for the world’s leading players, despite both being unable to inspire their countries to World Cup glory in Russia.
England captain Kane, who leads the race for the World Cup Golden Boot with six goals, insists that Messi and Ronaldo are still the best in the business.
“You can never write off Ronaldo or Messi,” Kane said. “They’ve probably not had the tournaments they set out to have, but they’re still two of the best players in the world.
“For me and the other young players coming through, they’re still inspirational — they set a bar that we have to go and try and reach.
“I’m very pleased with how it’s gone so far, but I want to keep pushing and getting better, and achieve what they’ve achieved in their careers.”
England manager Gareth Southgate, meanwhile, believes that Russia has signalled something of a changing of the guard at the top of the game, with the last two world champions, Germany and Spain, going home early.
But he claims it is an inevitable consequence and teams and players growing old.
“Personally, I think the world always changes, and teams evolve,” he said. “The teams that have been dominant for a long time, maybe their team has an era of players who are very strong.
“It’s very unusual for a team to be constantly at the top, then younger players come through and new teams emerge. We’re seeing a bit of that at this tournament.
“There are some really exciting young players across the world announcing themselves on the world stage.
“That’s what is so fantastic for Harry. To do that on the world stage, scoring goals, is a great achievement and is helping us enormously as a team.”