Harry Kane’s heart and focus is back under Conte… now he has to prove he’s still a world-beater

HARRY KANE spent this summer trying to force a move to a club with world-class players and a world-class manager fighting for world-class honours.

One out of three isn’t bad right now – Antonio Conte the latest coach tasked with leading Spurs to long-awaited glory domestically and in Europe.

Harry Kane looked more focused and energised under Antonio Conte for the Italian's Tottenham debut win over Vitesse

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Harry Kane looked more focused and energised under Antonio Conte for the Italian’s Tottenham debut win over VitesseCredit: EPA

The 28-year-old celebrated the Italian’s North London debut with a starring role in a scrappy win against nine-man Vitesse in the Europa Conference League.

But ironically, after feeling the need for ex-boss Nuno Espirito Santo to prove his credentials, it is Kane who now needs to prove himself to Conte.

He has three goals in three appearances in Europe, but it is in the Premier League that Conte will be expecting Kane to add to his one in nine tally so far.

The feeling is that will only be a matter of time under the former Chelsea chief, because one thing is for sure – Kane’s heart and focus is back in the white shirt of Tottenham.

His last appearance in this competition was from the bench in September.

He looked disinterested – as did Nuno – before being brought on to net a hat-trick without breaking a sweat.

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This time felt different. He was stood tall in the tunnel pre-match behind skipper Hugo Lloris as the Vitesse players gawped in awe. You get the sense Kane feels important again.

And as he lined up for the Europa Conference League anthem on the pitch – not one he would like to be hearing beyond this campaign – he stood opposite the world-class manager he has been longing for.

Conte was looking back, steely eyed but appreciative of his reception in North London suited and booted – ready to get down to business at his new home and with his latest project.

It felt right that Kane had the first touch of this latest era in the club’s history at kick-off – the one he has desperately been waiting for since the departure of his father figure Mauricio Pochettino in 2019.

Unlike previous games under Nuno during his short and troubled spell, the tactics and plan was clear from the off with Kane leading the line – as he should – in a 3-4-3.

Instead of dropping deep like he was encouraged to do by Jose Mourinho and Nuno – even by England boss Gareth Southgate at times – he is back to playing on the shoulder of defenders in and around the box under Conte.

After all, Conte said as recently as this summer as a pundit at Euro 2020 that Kane is ‘devastating’ when given service in the penalty area.

That service was few and far between in the opening stages, understandably, with Conte having just one full training session to drill his men into his way of thinking.

And after going 3-0 up before being pulled back to 3-2 with a Cristian Romero sent off, the Italian will be spending the rest of this week drilling his Spursy boys into shape.

Kane is still not playing at 100 per cent but appeared more enthusiastic, at least, for Conte's first game

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Kane is still not playing at 100 per cent but appeared more enthusiastic, at least, for Conte’s first gameCredit: Reuters

Kane himself still looks miles off his pulverising best – seemingly still recovering from a hangover caused by a concoction of Jose, Nuno and Levy downed in one.

But his focus and enthusiasm is at least present, letting out a huge fist pump as Son Heung-min opened the scoring in the 15th minute.

And when he did find himself on the ball deep, instead of pinging balls from a stationary position he was running at Vitesse with vigour.

Not that he has lost that eye for a pass – teeing up Lucas Moura for Spurs’ second with a perfectly timed ball after outmuscling a defender.

But it was the third goal that would have pleased Conte most – a six-yard box scrap that ended up with Kane forcing a defender to poke into his own net.

That’s where he wants Kane, and on the touchline is where Kane has desired a coach like Conte for many years.

Now, the two must hit their peaks in harmony to turn this season – and this club – around.

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Ryan Mason and Antonio Conte talk on the pitch ahead of first game in charge

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