Wayne Rooney was quick to pile the praise on for Harry Kane after breaking his own goal scoring record for England, but revealed he ‘knew’ the Tottenham star would do so after just his fourth cap.
Rooney held the previous record at 53, but after Kane’s historic 54th strike against Italy, the retired forward claimed it was evident that his former team-mate would best his tally from the start.
Kane’s record-breaker proved vital as the 10-men of England saw off a late charge from Italy including a goal from Argentinian-born Mateo Retegui to win 2-1 in Naples, with Declan Rice netting the opener for the Three Lions.
Rooney though was one of the first to congratulate Kane on his stunning achievement, and as well as admitting he ‘knew he could do it’, the DC United boss predicted that nobody would break the England captain’s final tally.
Rooney tells that on the night he broke the previous 49-goal record, he told his team-mates – including a young Kane – that he anticipated one of his younger colleagues would one day topple his own tally.
Harry Kane was one of the first to congratulate Wayne Rooney on the night that he broke Bobby Charlton’s previous record
Kane scored from the spot against Italy to help England to a 2-1 win away from home
‘Harry had scored only three England goals at that point — but I said those words because I knew he could do it,’ Rooney wrote in his column for The Times.
‘Even then, with only four caps under his belt, I knew he could become England’s greatest scorer if he kept going the way he was and I wanted to give him encouragement.’
Rooney was clearly a very early admirer of Kane’s talent, and the Spurs star himself admitted the former record-holder’s predicted the feat he achieved on Thursday early on in his international career.
‘I was on the pitch when Wayne broke the record. I know what it meant to him and I was so proud of him,’ he told Channel 4.
‘I remember when I gave him the boot for breaking the record he said he would be giving it back to me one day. A special man.’
Kane’s record for England is remarkable, with his 54th goal coming in just 81 games, and having netted 46 of those as captain of his country.
The Tottenham star netted just 80 seconds into his debut – against Lithuania in 2015 – and holds the record for most England goals in a calendar year (16), and 12 goals coming in major tournaments – including the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot.
He won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when England finished fourth
Kane made his England debut in 2015 as a substitute for Rooney against Lithuania
The Tottenham striker sent Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way to become England’s all-time top scorer
And at just 29, Kane still has several years ahead of him leading the line for England, and will surely go on to reach 100 caps for his country, leaving him wither every chance of putting the next goal record in a near-unreachable place.
‘Knowing Harry, it’s not something that will go to his head,’ added Rooney. ‘He will kick on and, in fact, I believe that when he stops playing he will leave the England record in a place where it will be very difficult for someone else to break it.
‘He wants to be like Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, a goal machine who is still at the very top in his mid-thirties, and he has it in him to make that happen. I think Harry will finish with an England goals total well into the 70s.’
Rooney’s early predictions for Kane’s international future were not unfounded, coming midway through his breakout season for Tottenham.
He scored 21 goals in the Premier League in 2014-15 for Spurs, and although Rooney claims there were initial questions over whether he could sustain that form, he admits those doubts were quickly quashed on his international call-up.
The England legend revealed that Kane was almost immaculate with his shooting in training – comparing his technique to that of Chelsea record goalscorer Frank Lampard – describing him as a natural finisher.
As well as Lampard, Rooney compared the striker to fellow legends Francesco Totti – as a result of his deeper-lying role – and Steven Gerrard – due to the example he sets through his performances.
Kane overtakes England legends Rooney, Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker to become England’s all-time top goalscorer, as seen in our graphic created by Sofascore.com
Rooney compared Kane’s ‘selfishness’ in front of goal to former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo
But perhaps the highest praise he put on the 29-year-old’s was drawn from an early training session Rooney witnessed with England, comparing him with Thursday’s fellow record-breaker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The former skipper described Kane’s ‘selfishness’ in front of goal at an early age, taking shots from every angle inside the box, even from unlikely angles, in the style of the Portugal legend.
‘The only other person I’ve seen like that is Cristiano Ronaldo and both he and Harry have what you would call a good kind of selfishness, an obsession with goals that is in-built. It is important to their success.’
Kane will have an opportunity to extend his record to 55 goals and perhaps even further against Ukraine on Sunday, when the Three Lions are next in action at Wembley in their second Euro 2024 qualifier.
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