Antonio Conte wants Harry Kane to reproduce his “world-class” England form in a Tottenham shirt and believes the striker’s World Cup qualifying feats were just the boost he needed.
A desperate start to the Premier League season by Kane has seen the striker net just once in 10 games for Spurs, and provide only a single assist.
After last season’s 23 goals from 35 games, which he complemented with a career-high 14 assists, it marks a drastic waning in fortunes for the England captain.
The most widely advanced theory among those questioning that decline is that Kane is fatigued, not only from his exertions with England at Euro 2020 but from a drawn-out saga concerning his own future.
Kane was widely expected to be a Manchester City player by now, but that did not come to pass, with Tottenham resistant to efforts to take their star man.
He failed to deliver in the league for Nuno Espirito Santo during the Portuguese’s short-lived spell as Tottenham boss, but new head coach Conte will expect Kane to produce talismanic performances.
After firing a hat-trick against Albania last Friday, followed by four against San Marino, Kane reached 16 goals in the calendar year for England, a new record for the team.
“To score is never easy. I’m happy for him, the national team. England are now ready to play in the World Cup in Qatar,” Conte said.
“It’s a good achievement. I am happy for Harry because he broke the record with England. We are talking about a world-class striker, an important player for us.
“For sure to score is a boost for him. I am very happy, I have the possibility to get to know him much more.
“He is a top player, he wants to train very hard and improve. It’s fantastic for me because my first task is to try and improve the players, bring them to another level. I think in this team, many players can do this.”
Kane has managed a minimum of 17 goals in each of the last seven Premier League seasons, but he has serious work to do to threaten that mark this term.
After 10 games last season, he had seven goals and nine assists, clicking sensationally with Son Heung-min as Tottenham made a flying start that saw them lead the table in early December.
Jose Mourinho and his players could not convert that into a sustained title challenge, and Tottenham are already so far back this term that a push for the Premier League trophy is almost a non-starter. They sit ninth heading into the weekend, 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
For the home game against Leeds United on Sunday, they will be without the injured Cristian Romero, and Conte has a doubt over Giovani Lo Celso after his return from Argentina duty.
Conte says everyone at Tottenham must “feel important” and have “a sense of belonging”.
“You must work with your heart, passion,” said the former Inter, Chelsea, Italy and Juventus boss. “This is the right way to improve and extend the sense of belonging to our supporters and our players during the game.”
He hopes Tanguy Ndombele, Tottenham’s blissfully talented midfielder, feels that way. According to Conte, Ndombele “has to work much more than the others”.
The French playmaker endured a poor 2020-21 season, with his contributions nosediving. In a host of departments, his numbers slumped.
Per 90 minutes played in the Premier League, his performances slipped from a promising 2019-20 effort, with goals per 90 falling (0.18 to 0.13), assists going the same way (0.18 to 0.09), along with chances created (1.07 to 0.6), tackles won (1.43 to 0.85) and successful passes ending in the final third (14.39 to 10.64).
Conte said: “I have seen many managers struggle with his position. He has the quality. He has to understand it is a team, and he has to play into the team.
“It is important to do what the position asks you to do. We are working very hard. He has to work much more than the others.
“He has talent, but he has to put it into the team for the team, not for the single player. Every single player has to know what he has to do. If every player just runs around the pitch, it will be a mess.”
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