LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino believes Harry Kane is on course to becoming a Tottenham Hotspur great, after the striker scored the 100th club goal of his career.
Kane, 23, scored a first-half hat-trick in his club's 4-0 victory over Stoke City, reaching the century mark with his first goal and ending the game with his season tally on 22 goals.
The Englishman has scored four hat-tricks in the Premier League for Tottenham, one more than Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane.
The striker's effort helped Spurs bounce back after the disappointment of going out of the Europa League against Gent last week and Pochettino believes Kane's all-around display confirmed his qualities as one of the world's most dangerous forwards.
"Harry has the profile to be a legend (at Tottenham)," said the Spurs manager. "Maybe he's starting to be a legend with the goals he's scoring and the way he behaves."
Kane is the first Spurs player to score 20 goals in three successive seasons since Jimmy Greaves.
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Hat-tricks Harry Kane has plundered in his last nine appearances:
• Jan 14, Premier League: 4-0 v West Bromwich (h)
• Feb 19, FA Cup: 3-0 v Fulham (a)
• Feb 26, Premier League: 4-0 v Stoke City (h)
Greaves was a character of the game and Pochettino was at pains to point out that Kane is not a dull version of the former Spurs hero.
"He has his character," the Argentinian said. "Sometimes he argues with me. Sometimes he's upset with me. Sometimes happy. He has a strong character.
"He is one of the best. I am pleased for him. He deserves it (to reach 100 goals). I'm very happy. I've said many times, for me he is one of the best strikers in the world."
Stoke manager Mark Hughes, a former striker with Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, praised Kane too.
"He either takes chances or creates them, he's always involved at the sharp end," said Hughes.
"There's great movement around him and that causes consternation. He benefits from that. He's in a good team and he's a good player and when it all clicks they're very difficult to stop."
Kane also set up Dele Alli for his side's fourth goal as the midfielder delivered the ideal response after being sent off against Gent.
Alli was heavily criticised for the first-half challenge that brought a straight red card and the player admitted it had been a difficult 72 hours.
"It has been a difficult week for me. I felt horrible after the game in the week. I'm delighted to respond like this today," he said.
And his manager offered his full support for the 20-year-old.
"Our conversations are private but I gave more love than normal," said Pochettino.
"He's very mature and he showed that today. I am happy for him.
"He is only 20 years old. I will always protect and support him. For me, he is one of the best young players in the world."
The win moved Tottenham up to second place and, while the gap to leaders Chelsea remains a daunting 10 points, Pochettino insisted he has not given up hope of chasing down Antonio Conte's side.
The Argentinian said: "Ten points is a big gap, but we keep going and believe. We try to put on pressure."
Hughes, whose team are 10th, was left frustrated at his side's display and demanded improvements ahead of their next game against Middlesbrough, who lie in 16th.
"We've been in decent form and need to get back. It's a big game against Middlesbrough and we need to be significantly better than we were," he said.
"Spurs are a good side, give them credit. But every one of the goals (was) poor from our point of view."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON