Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has heaped praise on Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Champions League group game at Wembley on Wednesday (1 November), but insists he would not swap him for his own striker Harry Kane as the pair get set to duel again in Europe's premier club competition.
The England international emerged from the first group game with plenty of credit as Spurs claimed a valuable draw in the Bernabeu, despite Ronaldo's penalty cancelling out Raphael Varane's own goal.
Kane has outperformed Ronaldo this season having netted 13 times to the four-time Ballon d'Or winners' seven, amid Real's poor start of the new campaign. Victory over the reigning La Liga and European champions will be enough to take Tottenham into the last 16, but attention is once again on the battle between two of Europe's hottest hitmen.
"They are two incredible players," Pochettino told the media ahead of the game, according to AS. "We have to show respect for what Cristiano has done through the years and continues doing. For me, Harry is one of the best new players in the world, if not the best, and I would not swap him for anyone."
Despite having not scored since that spot-kick against Tottenham, Ronaldo naturally arrives at Wembley as the chief threat to Pochettino hopes of taking his side in the knock-out stage this week. On top of his record 110 goals in the competition's history, his status as one of the world's greatest was underlined last week when he was named the 2017 Best Fifa Men's player during a ceremony in London.
"He's a phenomenon," Pochettino told Marca. "He has been awarded 'The Best' and the truth is that he deserves it. In addition to his qualities as a professional, he is an example. He never tires of repeating that the secret is to work hard, to strive, to take care of himself. Every player should apply it.
"They are very similar in terms of professionalism. They understand that we must strive to achieve success. He has a similar mentality. I do not know Cristiano in depth, but he gives me the same feeling as Harry."
Meanwhile, Kane, who is expected to be fit for the return fixture, and teammate Dele Alli have been subject to speculation linking them with a move to Madrid in the near future. Tottenham's rigid financial structure means they are vulnerable to players leaving in search of enhanced pay-packets, though neither player has ever suggested they are anything but committed to the North Londoners.
Reports prior to the 1-1 draw between Real and Tottenham suggested chairman Daniel Levy valued Kane at more than £200m (€228m), in an attempt to warn off interest in the forward. But Pochettino believes it is a unique culture of belonging that will ensure Tottenham can fight off interest in their best players.
"In football there are things that are difficult to understand," he added. "The feeling that has been generated in this club, that of belonging, makes it more complicated for footballers to want to leave. In football, everything changes from one day to the next. Hopefully they will stay here. The objective is to ensure Tottenham win both the Premier League and the Champions League."