“Harry Kane is maybe the most complete striker. He’s an amazing player and still young. Tottenham are lucky to have him.”
But the German World Cup winner is certainly not alone in his assessment of Kane. A former Bianconeri forward happily picked up the baton this week.
“He [Kane] is a true champion, a complete player,” Fabrizio Ravanelli told Corriere della Sera. “He’s very good at raising the overall level of his team, although maybe he can improve in the air.”
Yet while the ex-Middlesborough striker lauded Kane’s ability, Ravanelli, who scored the crucial goal when Juve last clinched the Champions League, believes the Old Lady have an even greater all-round goalscorer.
“I prefer Gonzalo Higuaín,” he said. “At the moment, he is proving to be fundamental in Juve’s general play and in the build-up phase. He seems to be a more clinical player in the box, however, they are both great strikers.”
Perhaps the final point Ravanelli made is the most undeniable. Since joining the Serie A giants for a club record €90million in July 2016, Higuain has bagged 50 goals in just 86 appearances. In the process he has made a mockery of his reputation as a player who chokes in big games.
The Argentine has struck regularly against Milan, Roma and Napoli. He also netted a vital away goal in Juve’s Champions League semi-final clash with Monaco last term, one that ultimately propelled them to a second final in three years.
Tottenham academy graduate Kane has blossomed over the same period. He finished 2017 as the continent’s most prolific goalscorer after chalking up a staggering 56 goals in the calendar year.
This season he has been in relentless form, scoring 32 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions. It is why Kane or Higuain are likely to be the players who ultimately decide an enticing Champions League last 16 tie.
But if Kane is to make his mark, he’ll need help against a Juventus defence which has been measly in the last two months.
After losing Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci in the summer, it took a while for Massimiliano Allegri to remould his backline. A 0-0 draw with Barcelona in the group stages was the foundation, and since the Bianconeri have conceded just once in 16 games.
However, the latter knows he and his teammates are in for a tough test against a energetic Spurs side which will be spearheaded by Kane.
“I think me stopping Kane on my own, one-on-one, is pretty much impossible, I’m not so arrogant,” the rugged defender said at the pre-match press conference.
“What I hope is that the Juventus collective will be able to stop Tottenham. One-on-one clashes are important but the whole team will have to do its best to limit not only Harry Kane but their whole side.”
The Bianconeri will certainly have their hands full. Kane’s record-setting goalscoring form is a byproduct of Tottenham’s attacking style. Mauricio Pochettino men dominate possession and work the ball to their star man as often as possible.
Kane has averaged 5.9 shots per 90 minutes this term, far more than his opposite number in Turin.
While Juve boast Serie A’s most prolific attack, Higuain has been limited to just 3.3 shots per 90 minutes in all competitions.
His haul of 18 goals this season has been impacted by a winter drought, but that came to an end last month and Higuain has since found the back of the net six times in his last four appearances.
That tally includes his first hat-trick for the club and a crucial away goal in the Coppa Italia semi-final but, as Ravenelli hinted, the 30-year-old has also shone in other departments.
Combined Kane and Higuain have managed just three assists this term and they both average 1.1 key passes per 90 minutes. However, the Juve man has the edge in successful take-ons per game (1.7 to 1.5) and is far more accurate with his shooting, hitting the target with 61 per cent of his efforts compared to Kane’s 55 per cent.
And surprisingly, Higuain has worked harder defensively. This term Kane is averaging just 0.4 tackles and 0.1 interceptions per 90 minutes. Higuain has registered 0.9 and 0.4 in those respective categories.
But with the mercurial Paulo Dybala ruled out of the first leg due to a hamstring strain, it will not be Higuain’s work off the ball that Juve need. It will be his ruthlessness in front of goal and the chaos his presence causes opposition defences.
Allegri understandably laughed and replied “Higuain, of course!” when asked which of the two strikers he preferred, but added: “Kane is really a top player though, very strong, very good indeed.”
And that is why the clash between Juventus and Tottenham at the Allianz Stadium could boil down to which of the strikers shines brightest.