Harry Kane nets hat trick, eclipses Lionel Messi as 2017's top goalscorer

As if Harry Kane’s excellence needed statistical validation – as if it needed a single number to communicate just how all-encompassing and consistent it has been – Kane tallied three goals on Tuesday against Southampton to eclipse two separate goalscoring marks that are equally astounding.

Kane’s first goal, a point-blank header off a Christian Eriksen free kick, etched his name in the Premier League record books. It took him to 37 Premier League goals for the calendar year, one above Alan Shearer’s 1995 tally, the most in the league’s 25-year history.

But perhaps more impressively, the second goal of a 5-2 rout, a tap-in of a Heung-Min Son cross, put Kane one ahead of Lionel Messi in 2017, and at least one ahead of any other top-flight player in Europe.

It was Kane’s 55th of 2017, including all club competitions, and including international goals for England. That’s more than Messi (54). It’s more than Cristiano Ronaldo (53), Edinson Cavani (53) and Robert Lewandowski (53).

It is, in a way, a meaningless and arbitrary record. But placed in proper context, it is a remarkable one that validates Kane’s rise into world football’s elite. No player had scored more goals than both Ronaldo and Messi in a calendar year since David Villa and Edin Dzeko in 2009.

No Premier League player has come all that close. Nonetheless, in arguably the toughest league in the world, Kane managed to outscore world-class talents who regularly face more inferior competition. If this isn’t proof that Kane himself is one of those world-class talents as well, nothing will ever be.

Kane’s 18th multi-goal game of 2017 had Spurs up 2-0 at halftime in their final match of the year. Dele Alli and Son added to the lead in the second half, and Kane, on a hat trick, fizzed a volley inches wide of the far post.

Sofiane Boufal pulled a goal back for Southampton, but Kane then polished off his eighth hat trick of the year with a clever left-footed finish:

Kane had tied Shearer’s record, and drawn to within touching distance of Messi, with a hat trick against Burnley three days earlier. His second in four days, in his final match of 2017, will ensure he ends the calendar year with 39 Premier League goals, and 56 in all competitions.

Kane isn’t Messi, and nobody will ever mistake him for the diminutive Argentine, who remains the world’s best. But the numbers aren’t misleading. They aren’t flukes.

There’s a tendency to assume they are, for a few reasons. It’s easy to pigeonhole Kane as a classic British No. 9, a goalscorer with little else in his locker. And because he lacks awe-inspiring physical prowess, it’s natural to think he’s overachieving. And to a small degree, he probably is. Fifty-six goals in a calendar year is likely a high-end outlier.

But Kane is so much more than a poacher. And with every year, he outdoes himself. It’s about time his year-over-year improvement comes to be seen as a development arc rather than overachievement. Perhaps the No. 39, or the No. 56, will help change the narrative.

Harry Kane celebrates his first goal Tuesday against Southampton. (Getty)