Gianluigi Buffon has hailed the goalscoring instincts of Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane, but surprisingly overlooked Lionel Messi when running through his list of top finishers.
The legendary Juventus goalkeeper has faced some of the most fearsome frontmen in world football over the course of a distinguished played career.
Among those are some all-time greats, with the likes of Brazilian World Cup winner Ronaldo, ex-AC Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi and Argentine hot-shot Gabriel Batistuta having caused him problems in Serie A down the years.
He has also locked horns with Real Madrid star Ronaldo in the Champions League and is set to face Tottenham talisman Kane in European and international competition in 2018.
But while Buffon has been quick to salute the natural finishing instincts of that quintet, he has left Barcelona superstar Messi off his list of the finest forwards around.
Asked by The Mirror where Kane sits among the cream of the striking crop, the 39-year-old said: “Harry is now one of the best strikers in Europe – there is no question about that. As a player, you can always work on parts of your game and try to improve – but there are some things you can’t teach.
“That natural goalscoring instinct is for me a talent that you are born with. I have seen over the years with Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, [Filippo] Inzaghi, [Gabriel] Batistuta, they have that natural instinct that can really make goalkeepers suffer – and it’s clear Kane also has that.
“Always in my career I have wanted to test myself against the best – and now Harry Kane is one of the best. I have always had the attitude that I don’t fear the best – I respect them – and I always want to play against them.
"That is one of the greatest challenges of playing at the highest level, to test yourself against the best players – that is always something I have enjoyed.”
Buffon will get a good look at Kane when Juventus face Spurs in the last-16 of this season’s Champions League.
He is looking forward to the challenge, with there still a desire on his part to conquer Europe before hanging up his gloves.
“They are going to be two hard games against Tottenham – we know that,” added Buffon.
“Kane will be a big threat but they are not just Kane.
“As always, it is my dream to win the Champions League – I don’t allow it to be a pressure – but it still remains a big ambition.”
That particular prize is a notable omission from Buffon’s remarkable CV, with the likes of Inzaghi and Ronaldo having prevented him from getting his hands on the famous trophy down the years.