Has Tottenham's Harry Kane now reached the top of the European game?
Harry Kane’s career has been on an upwards trajectory since he broke into the Tottenham first-team during the 2014/15 season and he is now beginning to make an impact in the Champions League. The striker has scored more than 20 goals in the Premier League for three seasons in succession, but his failure to make an impact on the European stage has prevented him from being regarded as one of the best on the continent.
Last night, the 24-year-old scored a perfect hat-trick against APOEL to make it two wins out of two for Tottenham in the Champions League. His tally for the competition is already at five after only two match-weeks and he is already a contender to finish as the tournament’s top scorer. There will be some talking down his accomplishments in Cyprus due to the quality of the opposition, but he proved his worth two weeks ago, with a match-winning display against Borussia Dortmund.
There will be some getting carried away with his achievements in the competition to date. Rio Ferdinand recently compared the striker to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, when discussing Kane’s six hat-tricks in 2017:
“Those kind of stats are up there with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s quickly letting people know that he is here to stay.”
It isn’t helpful to compare him to the two best players in the world, even if Ferdinand was alluding to the hat-trick statistic rather than his ability. That said, there is no doubt that Kane is beginning to enhance his reputation on the continent. This could be his breakout season as he attempts to establish himself as one of the best strikers in Europe.
How good is Harry Kane?
Unlike a lot of the players at the top of the European game, Kane wasn’t always destined for the very top. He has had to earn his way to his current position through hard work and determination. Before being given a fair run of games in the first-team at White Hart Lane, he had to go out on four loan spells.
The loan system is often criticised, but the England international believes that it played a key role in preparing him for where he is now, especially his spell at Millwall. He confirmed as much when he played against them last season in the FA Cup:
“It was a great experience for me and there is no doubt it was a big stepping stone to where I am now. Everyone knows it can be a tough place to play but I learnt so much in a short space of time and it definitely helped me grow up. To be thrown into that at 18 was really good and it’s one of the things that made me who I am today.”
During his time with the Lions, he scored nine goals in 27 appearances and was given a significant role for the first time in senior football. It would have certainly have improved his mentality and provided him with experience on the pitch that helped him get to the top of the English game, as he was never going to be given an opportunity at White Hart Lane.
There is always an element of luck when it comes to a young player breaking through and making a name for themselves. The faltering careers of Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor gave a chance to Kane in the Premier League and he hasn’t looked back since. Mauricio Pochettino is a coach that trusts young players and once the Englishman broke into the team, the Argentine was never likely to replace him with a bigger name.
Since the beginning of his breakthrough season, 2014/15, he has scored 79 Premier League goals at a rate of one every 114.2 minutes. This past year he has progressed further, reaching a whole new level in terms of his personal achievements. To date, he has scored 34 goals in all competitions, including six hat-tricks. No Premier League player has even come close to him in terms of find the back of the net.
Kane is a complete centre-forward. He is intelligent in his movement and capable of taking up the most threatening positions in the final third. He has a good burst of acceleration and, paired with his strength, this makes him incredibly dangerous when he is running at the opposition back four. The 24-year-old is capable of scoring all sorts of goals and plays a prominent role in the build-up play.
It has been in the Premier League that he has forged a reputation for himself, but he is respected across Europe. This was clear from Giorgio Chiellini’s comments when asked about the striker back in August:
“I played one time [against Kane] in a friendly match for the national team. I think he’s one of the best in Europe.
“He’s the best striker in England. I think he continues to improve himself year on year, he can join up [play], he [likes] working in the box and working behind the ball.”
Although he has yet to make an impact in the Champions League, until now, the rest of Europe are aware of his talents and he already has respect from those at the very top of the game. The comments from big-name personalities in football have perhaps been over the top, including Rio Ferdinand’s, but Kane is beginning to establish himself on the European stage and that is encouraging as it has been a long time since an Englishman has managed to do that.
Can Tottenham keep hold of him for the long-term?
The more goals that Harry Kane scores, the more speculation will arise regarding his long-term future. Tottenham have yet to win a trophy under Mauricio Pochettino and until they do, they will be at risk of losing their key players. Nonetheless, during the summer, the striker reaffirmed his commitment to the club:
“Football for me isn’t about money. I’m at Tottenham because I love this club and I see it going in the right direction. I feel we are one of the best teams in England and Europe, so I’m excited for the future ahead. Everyone knows I’m a Spurs fan and that’s where I want to be for the foreseeable future.”
These quotes suggest that Kane has a good mentality and approaches football as a passion rather than a career. Tottenham are a club progressing in the right direction under Mauricio Pochettino and it is easy to pledge your future to them in their current state. However, the landscape can change quickly in football and if Spurs stop progressing, they could find it difficult to keep hold of their leading man.
That said, his focus on the moment will be to continue developing, while ignoring the hype that is building around him. Kane has never been an individual to revel in praise for too long as he looks to keep moving forward and meet the next target. If he isn’t regarded as world-class right now, it won’t be long until he is.
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