Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen insists he would not swap striker Harry Kane for any player, not even Champions League record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo netted his 111th goal in 144 games in the competition two weeks ago, converting the penalty in Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham in the Bernabeu.
Vertonghen needs no reminding of the threat the Portuguese poses in Wednesday’s Group H return at Wembley when the hosts will hope to have Kane back from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of his side’s weekend defeat at Manchester United.
Kane has already scored five goals in three Champions League games this season — including a hat-trick at APOEL Nicosia — the same total as Ronaldo.
“Obviously they’re both unbelievable players,” Vertonghen told a news conference at Tottenham’s training ground.
“Ronaldo has his qualities and Harry has his and we’ve got to show respect to Ronaldo for everything he’s won over the years and the level that he’s still playing at.
“It’s hard to compare because they’re different players but Harry is for me one of the best number 9s in Europe, maybe the best. He’s showed that every week and I wouldn’t swap Harry for any player at the moment.”
Kane, the Premier League’s top scorer for the past two seasons, has 13 goals for Tottenham this season despite not opening his account until September.
He was missed in the 1-0 defeat by United on Saturday that left Tottenham in third place in the league, eight points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.
The 24-year-old trained on Tuesday, but Vertonghen said Tottenham can beat Real, and qualify for the last 16, even without the England striker.
“Harry is a very important player on and off the pitch for this group and having him is always a major boost,” the Belgian said. “But definitely we can beat them and that’s our intention going on the pitch with or without Harry.”