Harry’s August hoodoo continued this season. England and Tottenham’s star striker has failed to score in the opening month of the season for the past three seasons. Said Kane, in August, when asked about the unusual phenomenon, “it is something that is spoken about a lot but I’m not too bothered by it” (Mirror, August 2017). He went on to say that if he kept his head down and worked hard, the goals would come and sure enough, à la previous seasons, the goals rained in as soon as August ended. His statements simply verbalised the mentality and self-confidence that have seen him win the Premier League golden boot for the past two seasons, despite not scoring at all in August and being injured from September to November last season. He scored more goals in the 2016-17 season than the 2015-16 season but played eight games less. Going into the game against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions’ League, he was level on goals scored in the 2017 calendar year with Los Blancos star man Ronaldo – winner of FIFA’s The Best player in the world award. Crazy. Why then isn’t Harry Kane one of the favourites for the Ballon D’Or ? Because Real Madrid won the Spanish league title, Tottenham finished second in the Premier League. Ronaldo and Real Madrid won the Champions’ League for the second season running, Kane and Spurs were knocked out at the group stages. In fact, Harry Kane won no trophy whatsoever. You can score as many goals as you like but the great ones are always distinguished by trophies won.
He was asked by the hostess at the FIFA ‘The Best’ awards who he thought the Puskas award should go to and he chose Masuluke Oscarine, the goalkeeper who executed an overhead kick and then eclipsed the already impressive goal with a wonderful dance celebration. Obviously Kane was never going to cast his vote for Arsenal striker, Olivier Giroud – the eventual recipient of the award. Sat a few rows behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar – who were seated in the front row – that question probably interrupted his daydream of sitting up there in the front row as one of the world’s best or at least a part of the FIFPro World XI someday. Lionel Messi is the only player in Europe’s top five leagues who has scored more goals in all competitions than Harry Kane this calendar year, which has also seen the latter score six hat-tricks and there are still two months left in the year. But Kane sat and watched as the World XI was announced, full of Real Madrid players. Rumours of him joining Real Madrid next summer have been making the rounds and although he has always said he is happy at his boyhood club, while allowing for a change in the future (like most modern day footballers do), he must have at that point, started to truly consider a move to the European champions. If you can’t beat them, join them and Tottenham certainly couldn’t get the better of Madrid at the Bernabeu, 6 days prior to the award ceremony in London with Kane himself missing a golden opportunity to win the game for Spurs. He must have thought ‘five players in the FIFPro XI and Zidane named manager of the year, Real Madrid sure looks like the place to be.’ He could add to that tally of Madrid stars recognised, he already looks good in white anyway.
However, before that big move can happen, he will have to pass a huge test next summer in Russia. The 2018 World Cup is set to be Kane’s biggest test thus far. England qualified for the tournament on the back of Kane’s goals – 5 goals total in the qualifiers, with 2 crucial ones coming against Slovenia and Lithuania (both 1-0 wins). That run across the Slovenian defender to poke Kyle Walker’s cross home and the passionate celebration which followed it had the look of a winning goal in a World Cup final. England have longed to once again bask in the glory that comes with winning the World Cup, after their only win in 1966 but generations of talented players have passed through the team since and none have managed to replicate that success. Their U-17 and U-20 teams both became well deserved world champions this year, a stellar year for English football. This year also saw the retirement of England’s highest ever goalscorer – Wayne Rooney, from so young and for so long England’s beacon of hope but that light that literally led the team couldn’t lead them to glory. That Rooney is the best English player of his generation and possibly ever, but has never received due respect, is my opinion. That Wayne Rooney didn’t perform in the big tournaments (except Euro 2004) for England is a fact. 4 goals in 4 games at the Euros, 13 years ago, and being named in the team of the tournament remains the zenith of Rooney’s big tournament performances. Kane, as England’s new talisman and maybe captain too, will be held to the same standards as the Croxteth native. Euro 2016 was disappointing but he’s well and truly the darling of English football now and loved by all but he has to perform on the big stage to be respected by all.
On Wednesday, a day after Halloween, Tottenham’s goal-hungry monster was deemed fit to start against Real Madrid, after a hamstring strain sidelined him for the two games prior. He sustained the injury in Tottenham’s 4-1 demolition of Liverpool. He also scored twice in that match. So, was it then a coincidence that Spurs lost the two games he was unavailable for ? I think not and Pep Guardiola probably agrees with me on that one, because he straight up called Tottenham ‘the Harry Kane team’, a comment that offended a few, as you would expect …and those you would expect. It’s hard to disagree with him though. On what would turn out to be an unforgettable 3-1 victory against the Spanish champions, Kane didn’t score but still provided a sublime assist for Eriksen to score Spurs’ third goal. Benzema. I like Benzema, he is one of my favourite strikers and I have always opposed the motion that he’s not good enough for Madrid. I’ve always thought he suited them perfectly, not only because he is a wonderful footballer and a top striker with an excellent record at the club, but above all, he has been selfless enough to ‘play for’ the de facto striker, Ronaldo. I reckon he is one of only a handful of elite strikers prepared to do that. People wonder a lot why Real Madrid don’t get a ‘better striker’, here’s the most likely reason: no top striker, except Benzema clearly, wants to play second fiddle in his own position. Lewandowski and Aguero wouldn’t want that. Will Kane be willing to do that ? Eriksen’s goal reminded me of a classic ‘BBC’ counter-attack. How many times have we seen Benzema take up the position Kane took up and play the exact same pass to Ronaldo (who has made that same run made by the Dane a thousand times) ? My point is Benzema looks lost at sea these days and Kane is ready to replace him. Kane is a great finisher from a variety of ranges, an excellent link-up player, possesses good technique, intelligent, brings his teammates into the game and is tactically astute and adaptable. These are qualities big Benz possesses as well, but there is a nuance in their styles – a touch of flair present in Benzema’s game which is absent in Kane’s. Both boast beautiful technique, but Benzema executes whatever he does with a bit more polish and smoothness of movement. Kane is, for lack of a better word, awkward in his movement and execution but still extremely effective. Zidane recently called him the complete forward who ‘perhaps doesn’t look like it sometimes’. Some could go as far as calling that a backhanded compliment but every coach will place effectiveness and consistent productivity over style.
Okay, before we get too carried away in all this, first things first – will Spurs be willing to let Kane go ? That’d be the third star/best player to move from Tottenham to Madrid in 6 years. Modric’s and Bale’s moves hurt the Tottenham faithful, but Kane’s could break them. It’s obvious that Pochettino is moving the club upwards; there’s light at the end of the tunnel – the gleam of several trophies. The Argentine gaffer is building a formidable team full of young players who could go on to win a couple of league titles and potentially the Champions’ League. They’ll soon move into a beautiful new stadium and the rebirth of an old force in English football will be complete. A new Tottenham Hotspur with limitless possibilities and Kane at the heart of it all. Kane himself must see all this too, especially after the team’s performance against Los Blancos. They will soon be able to consistently compete with the best in the world for the biggest honours and should he stay, he’ll be central to that. But will they really ever get there or are they just leading their fans on, only to never meet expectations ? Spurs do need to win something this year to prove that they’re truly making progress under Pochettino and Harry Kane claims he knows this. They’ve finished 3rd and 2nd, respectively, in the last two seasons and should be aiming for the title this season, although it’s looking like sky blue ribbons will adorn that trophy come May. Maybe the league title is still out of reach right now for such a young team, if so, they need to win the FA Cup. If they finish the season with no silverware whatsoever, Kane has to take that next step in his career and leave to Madrid. Should Kane replace Benzema, I dare say he’ll only have to cater to Ronaldo’s needs a maximum of two more years, because notwithstanding the fact that we’ve learnt over the years not to write Ronaldo off, I don’t think he’ll remain at the peak of his prowess longer than that and will consequently, most likely, leave the club. Granted Ronaldo missed 4 league games due to a suspension at the start of the season, he’s now played 7 games and has surprisingly only registered a single goal. Messi’s scored 12, Kane’s got 8. A post-Ronaldo Madrid might struggle to adjust to his absence but that isn’t very likely as Madrid always go for the best and will find a way to fill that void, even if it means bringing in two or three world stars to replace one. Kane could go and make Real Madrid ‘the Harry Kane team’ too, it’s been the Cristiano Ronaldo team for a while now.
From going on loan spells all over England at the dawn of his career, to being called a one season wonder, to now being mentioned in the same breath as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Harry Kane is still going places and his next stop could be Madrid. If he makes the move, his challenge, should he choose to accept it, would be to score even more goals than he already does, become indisputably the best striker in the world, win trophies and keep the great white shark that is Real Madrid at the top of the food chain where it belongs. Hala Madrid!