Harry Redknapp has admitted that during his time as Tottenham Hotspur manager, he never believed that Harry Kane would go on to become the best striker in the world.
Redknapp gave Kane his Spurs debut back in 2011, before he went on to score his first senior goal in a Europa League clash against Shamrock Rovers in Dublin.
Speaking ahead of England’s World Cup semi-final clash with Croatia later this evening, Redknapp has worked with both sides’ key men in Kane and Luka Modric.
However, the 71-year old believes that Kane’s qualities could tip the balance in England’s favour.
“I didn’t see him becoming the best centre forward in the world, which is what he has become,” Redknapp said.
“I’m saying centre forward, I’m not saying the best player, I’m not saying he’s Messi, Ronaldo whatever, but as an out and out striker, the leader of the line.
“There is no one you’d swap him for, I can’t think of anyone I’d want to swap him for. I didn’t see that coming.
“But I knew there was a player there because of his attitude and the way he was, he just wanted to be a player, trained hard, worked hard, fantastic person, dedicated, just practiced and practiced, he spent an hour after on the training pitch just working on his game.
“He deserves all the success he’s had. But none of us could have sat here and say he’d become what he’s become.”
Redknapp recounted the moment when he knew that Kane was destined to have a successful career, and it came at a cost for current Crystal Palace defender Scott Dann.
“We played a game at the training ground one day and the chief scout of Arsenal, Steve Rowley rung up and asked if he could watch the game with Pat Rice,” Redknapp recalled.
“They were really looking at Scott Dann who was playing with Birmingham, Arsenal wanted to sign him. He just wanted to check his fitness. He had already agreed terms with the club, I think.
“He came over to our training ground to watch this U-21 game. You could play over-age players. Scott Dann was playing in this game and Harry scored four goals that day against him.
“Arsenal didn’t take Scott Dann, but Harry scored four goals. He was a player. I had him in the first team. He played in the Uefa Cup. He came over and played in Ireland so you knew he was 19, but he was still growing and maturing.
“He wasn’t ready then. He needed the experience. He went out on loan. He went to Leicester and he didn’t even get a game. They hardly picked him.
“He had that determination. So many kids come into football clubs, get a contract and think they have made it. They don’t want to work. They sit back but Harry didn’t.
“He wanted to be a top player. He just practiced every day after training. He would be out on the training pitch on his own for an hour. Working, shooting, doing what he had to do.
“Harry is old school. He has no big time about him. There’s nothing flash about him. And the boy on the other side tonight, Luka Modric, is exactly the same kind of person – family man, great professional, low maintenance, never a problem. So there is two of them there tonight.”
Harry Redknapp was speaking today at the launch of AIB’s new series, The Toughest Rivalry. The series, airing exclusively across AIB’s social channels, stars both Redknapp and former Italian footballer and Premier League manager Gianluca Vialli.