Harry Kane's record-breaking England career in four stages
Harry Kane is now England's record goalscorer, with his goal against Italy taking him beyond Wayne Rooney's tally of 53 set just seven years ago.
The Tottenham Hotspur striker has 54 goals from 81 caps, and has been the fulcrum of the best-performing England team in tournaments for decades.
Kane's determination to maximise his talent won him the respect of the football world, after an unorthodox route to the elite level. On Kane's 21st birthday, he had only started six Premier League games for Spurs after loan spells at Millwall, Norwich City, Leyton Orient and Leicester City.
He took off under Mauricio Pochettino in the 2014-15 campaign, has been one of Europe's foremost centre-forwards ever since and is now his nation's record scorer before the age of 30.
This is how an unlikely England legend was forged, in four stages.
The 'one-season wonder' emerges
As Tim Sherwood is fond of restating, he was the Tottenham manager who gave Kane his first significant taste of Premier League football during some inconsequential games at the end of a disappointing 2013-14 season.
Kane scored three league goals in six starts, but was perhaps guilty by association with Tottenham's roundly mocked Sherwood-interlude.
Even when he scored five more league goals before the turn of the year under Pochettino, few non-Spurs people were talking about Kane as a future great for club and country.
He did not possess explosive pace; he was not particularly dominant in the air; he was not the most elegant or agile mover and there were few displays of outrageous technical ability.
It soon became clear he did possess one very important skill: finding the back of the net, usually the bottom corners, with both feet from all angles.
A bookmark performance in Kane's career came on New Year's Day 2015, when he scored twice in a 5-3 demolition of champions elect Chelsea, managed by Jose Mourinho.
Kane would finish the season with 21 Premier League goals and win the PFA Young Player of the Year award, making his England debut in March against Lithuania.
In a sign of things to come, Kane scored a header with just his third touch as an England international, 79 seconds after coming on as a substitute.
He would score two more England goals in the September internationals against San Marino and Switzerland, a camp at which Kane had to answer questions about the 'one-season wonder' tag.
“I know I am more than that. I don’t think last year was lucky," Kane told reporters, but he would have to wait a while for vindication in an England shirt.
The awkward Rooney transition
In that September 2015 match against Switzerland, Rooney scored a penalty that made him England's record goalscorer ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton, with Kane coming off the bench in the 58th minute.
From that game until a 1-0 win over Slovakia in September 2016 (Sam Allardyce's only game as manager), Kane scored just twice in 13 England appearances.
This run included the crushing low of Euro 2016 and elimination to Iceland, when Kane failed to score in his first international tournament and Roy Hodgson had him taking corners.
It was also a run in which Rooney was still an England regular, and with hindsight one can see that the baton needed to be formally passed in order for Kane to flourish. In the two 2016 internationals featuring a Kane goal – wins over Turkey and Germany in Berlin – England played without Rooney.
The summer tournament in France was a struggle for England and proved the end of Hodgson, with Rooney operating in a central midfield role and Kane up top.
Kane had emphatically buried those one-season jibes with a superb season for Spurs, when his 25 Premier League goals put them in contention for the title.
He looked laboured at Euro 2016 though, and his wayward corners and free-kicks became an unfortunate meme. At that point, Kane was yet another England player to fall short physically and mentally on the biggest international stage.
Reflecting on Iceland four years later, Kane said: "It is a game that I have definitely learned from, that was my first intentional tournament at the time, I was still inexperienced at that level and even club level really."
It is no coincidence that Kane's next England goal - a 93rd-minute equaliser away at Scotland in June 2017 - came seven months after Rooney's last England appearance proper.
The shot monster is born
With Rooney out of the picture, England's attack now belongs to Harry Kane and new manager Gareth Southgate reaps the benefit of a complete striker in full bloom. He could bully defenders physically, dart in behind them, create his own chances and sniff out opportunities in crowded penalty areas.
Kane scored 30 Premier League goals for Spurs in 2017-18, when he averaged in excess of five shots per game, in what is his best campaign to date.
He really started to motor in an England shirt too, scoring five goals in World Cup qualification and two more in a friendly against France.
One of the landmark moments for Kane and Southgate's England was his last-minute winner against Tunisia in their World Cup opener in Russia, a textbook piece of back-post poaching.
It was a springboard to England reaching a semi-final, and for Kane proving himself a bona fide tournament performer as he won the Golden Boot with six goals.
Kane's tournament record also separates him from his predecessors (naturally, given Southgate's team have surpassed previous England sides collectively).
To date, Kane has scored eight World Cup goals plus four at the 2020 European Championships. That means more than 22 per cent of his England goals have come in tournaments, compared to just over 13 per cent for Rooney.
True, a number of them have been penalties (33 per cent of Kane's England goals in fact).
After the 2018 World Cup, Kane continued to feast on goals, scoring 12 in Euro 2020 qualifying and 10 more in World Cup 2022 qualification.
The playmaking forward
Kane has been described as a combination of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham, and it is hard to think of a more apt encapsulation of his game in his late 20s.
His ability as a provider came to prominence during behind-closed-doors football in 2020-21, when he finished the season with the most Premier League assists as well as goals, his vision and weight of pass regularly sending Heung-min Son clear of defences.
It is a role Kane has leaned into with England, both at Euro 2020 and this year's World Cup.
It also attracted criticism from those who felt the tactic was more suited to Spurs' personnel than England's. When Kane fails to score in a game England do not win, some pundits implore him to stay closer to the penalty area.
Kane and Southgate have been undeterred though, with Kane saying in March 2021: "We have got great pace on the wings, great forward runners from midfield. So it is natural for me to drop and try to create play."
There have been some barren spells: notably in this summer's Nations League matches when the team were booed by supporters. Kane's record in the Nations League is actually quite poor, with three goals in 18 appearances. The advent of the Nations League has resulted in fewer friendlies, with just 11.5 per cent of Kane's goals coming in non-competitive matches compared with 30.1 per cent of Rooney's.
He also failed to score in England's first three World Cup games in Qatar but came good with an unerring finish against Senegal which was a throwback to the younger Kane. He missed the chance to break the goalscoring record in England's quarter-final defeat to France, blazing his penalty over the bar in another painful tournament exit.
The historic moment came when he converted a penalty to put England two up in Naples. The tally stands at: 18 penalties, 21 with his right from open play, nine with his head and six with his left. But there is only one Harry Kane: England's greatest goalscorer.