Antonio Conte has played down concerns over Harry Kane’s fitness levels for the World Cup, having said on Wednesday that the England captain was “very, very tired” after starting 21 games in a row for Tottenham.

The Spurs manager backed the forward to enjoy a “fantastic” tournament and defended his decision to keep playing Kane during a packed run of domestic fixtures. “It’s very difficult to make a decision to put him on the bench,” Conte said. “We are talking about a player with great experience to manage his body.”

Kane was withdrawn after an hour of the midweek Carabao Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest and Conte revealed afterwards the 29-year-old had been struggling with fatigue in a training session on Tuesday. Despite that, the Italian insists he has no concerns about Kane before Saturday’s visit of Leeds, or for England’s campaign in Qatar.

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“I think and I am sure Harry is going to play a fantastic World Cup because in this season he was never injured, he has had the possibility to have a good training session and he is good physically,” Conte added. “The fans must not be worried for him. After this game they [England] have one week, eight days to prepare for the World Cup, but he is ready because he is working very well.”

Conte had planned to rest Kane at some point during a run of 13 games in 43 days, but injuries to Dejan Kulusevski, Richarlison and Son Heung-min left Tottenham short of attacking options. The former Italy manager also warned Gareth Southgate that Kane “wants to play every game. This is important for me because it means he feels well. He wants to finish well with us. Tottenham is at the top of his thoughts until Saturday [night].”

“He is the captain of England, the most representative player, we are talking about a really top striker in the world,” Conte continued. “[The World Cup] is a big competition, the most important in the world and he has great desire to do something special for his national team, but they have to do this after the [Leeds] game.

“When you are a player like Harry that gives you everything in every game, it’s very difficult to put him on the bench or to give him a rest because [of] his desire, and his eyes are full of energy.”

Conte’s Tottenham deal expires at the end of the season, although the club reportedly hold an option to trigger a 12-month extension. The manager does not see the need to urgently discuss terms, but said the January transfer window will be a key topic of discussion with the club hierarchy.

“In my opinion, it’s important for me professionally [that] I have to feel I deserve to have a new contract with this club. I have to feel this. But for sure we’ll talk with the club and we’ll find the best solution,” Conte said. “It depends always on the possibilities of the club and also the ambition, but for sure we’ll speak.”

Conte added that conversations with the chairman, Daniel Levy, and sporting director Fabio Paratici have been “good”, but suggested that talks over “realistic ambitions” for the club are required. “Until now we worked only with this target to improve, and to find a good way to bring this club to be competitive,” he added.

“For this reason it will be very important to speak [and] to understand very well what is the realistic possibility for us, which are the realistic ambitions for the club, because I think the truth is very important. If you know the truth, you can work to find the best solution for the future.”

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