LONDON - England captain Harry Kane displays the same level of passion as Diego Maradona, the man who singlehandedly destroyed English hopes in the 1986 World Cup, Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino says.
Kane's double on Monday secured England a 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener to put Gareth Southgate's side in a strong position to qualify for the knockout stages. Pochettino, who Kane has flourished under since the Argentinian took over at the helm in 2014, told The Sun on Thursday the striker sets as inspirational an example as Maradona did.
"I think of Diego Maradona, Ossie Ardiles, players like this, who I know loved being away with their country," said 46-year-old Pochettino. "It is something special and Harry has created that with England. He loves Tottenham -- but he has a real passion with England also."
Maradona remains a controversial figure in England due to his 'Hand of God' goal in the 1986 quarter-final -- he added a sublime second to see his country to a 2-1 defeat of the English and they went on to lift the trophy. Pochettino, who did not have an enjoyable 2002 World Cup conceding the penalty in the 1-0 loss to England with Argentina going out at the group stage, says Kane's dedication to his country is rubbing off on the other players.
"Harry loves going with the national team. I can see the players are starting to feel this connection with England," said Pochettino. "It doesn't always happen -- but it is happening with this group of players. They have the passion for it."
A very proud moment to lead out my country at the #WorldCup last night. Seen some celebration videos from back home - love them. Your support is great we need you right behind us all the way. 🦁🦁🦁 #ThreeLions #ENG pic.twitter.com/c1WJ7YZZZ6
Pochettino, who admitted he ran round his Ibiza hotel room 'like an England fan' celebrating when Kane scored his second, says the Spurs star deserves to be put on the same level as Portugal legend Cristiano Ronaldo.
"To be talked about in the same breath as Cristiano is something special," said Pochettino. "But that is how people are talking about Harry now. For me, he is already the best striker in the world. He is not just a finisher. He can drop off, he can influence, he can read games, he can adapt to different tactics and formations. That is the complete player, that is somebody who can change and evolve as the game is being played."
Kane -- whose goals made up for his disappointing Euro 2016 when he failed to score -- had said prior to the finals that this England side would be united. Two of the so-called golden generation Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard have claimed England's hopes at previous finals were holed in the water because players took club rivalries into the national squad.