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Champions League

Has Tottenham’s Harry Kane now reached the top of the European game?

Jake Jackman

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Harry Kane

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.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Champions League

Ranking Liverpool’s possible Champions League semi-final opponents

The draw for the semi-final stage takes place on Friday 13th April.

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Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool shocked the footballing world with a 5-1 aggregate dismantling of Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals, earning themselves their first semifinal appearance in a decade.

The draw to determine who they will play in the last four occurs on Friday, and here are Liverpool’s possible opponents ranked in terms of difficulty.

1. Roma

Fresh off a superb 3-0 second leg win over Barcelona, the Serie A side are certainly high on confidence and feel as if they can beat any team in the world.

Nonetheless, the Reds will be hoping they are rewarded with a matchup against the Italian side, as they are the most inexperienced team left in the competition.

The farthest Roma have ever made it in the UEFA Champions League were back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 2006/07 and 2007/08; the semifinals mark uncharted territory for the Italians in the modern era.

Roma are also in poor league form, having recently lost to Fiorentina and drawing with Bologna, and currently sit 21 points off the pace in Serie A.

Liverpool would love to play the only remaining Italian side in the semifinals, as it would pit them against an inexperienced European club.

(Photo by Christof Stache/Getty Images)

2. Bayern Munich

One of the world’s best clubs and boasting a superstar collection of top players, the Bundesliga champions are a team to fear.

They have cantered to their sixth-straight league title this spring, winning the title in customary fashion with over a month still to play.

But although it has been all smooth sailing at home, they have shown signs of imperfection in the Champions League. They failed to muster a goal in their second-leg 0-0 draw with Sevilla, and were also thrashed 3-0 by Paris Saint Germain in the group stage.

Although the Bavarian giants are still a force to be reckoned with, they have shown signs of cracking this year; a fact that Liverpool can take heart from.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

3. Real Madrid

The back-to-back defending European champions would be the last club Liverpool want to face for a spot in the final.

Real Madrid possess the most dangerous player in Champions League history in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, gifting Los Blancos the ability to win a match out of nowhere.

Ronaldo’s uncanny scoring skills were on display in the quarterfinal battle against Juventus, where he scored three goals, including an outrageous overhead kick and a stoppage-time penalty to send Real through.

Madrid simply don’t get knocked out in Europe; the Reds should be praying they avoid the Spanish side in the semifinal draw.

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Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo provides spectacular reminder that he remains a dominant force in world football

The Portugal captain scored a sensational goal in Real Madrid’s midweek victory over Juventus.

Martyn Cooke

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Cristiano Ronaldo
Photo: Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo is no stranger to the spectacular.

The Portuguese superstar has been making headlines since he made his debut for Sporting Lisbon as a 17-year-old and he has since gone on to establish himself as one of, if not the, best player of his generation.

His record at both club and international level is remarkable, both in terms of scoring goals and winning titles, and there is little that the winger has not accomplished in a career that has spanned sixteen years and shows no sign of ending any time soon.

However, on Tuesday evening he produced a moment of magic that quite simply took the breath away.

Ronaldo had already put Real Madrid in control of their quarter-final tie in the Champions League against Juventus with an early close-range finish. It gave his side a vital away goal against Italy’s dominant club and also continued his own remarkable goalscoring record in the competition.

Then came one of the most spectacular goals in Champions League history.

Dani Carvajal clipped in a lofted cross into the Juventus eighteen-yard box and there seemed to be little danger as the ball floated towards the penalty spot.

Ronaldo dynamically leapt upwards, appearing to hang momentarily in the air, before producing a perfectly struck, acrobatic overhead kick. The ball flew beyond the astonished Gianluigi Buffon and into the far corner of the net.

(Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images)

Spectacular. Astonishing. Jaw-dropping. It feels that words and superlatives can do no justice to the moment of skill produced.

The normally loud and raucous Juventus Stadium was stunned into silence. Zinedine Zidane, no stranger to creating magic on a football pitch himself, simply put a hand to his head and turned towards the bench.

And then applause broke out from the Juventus supporters – a demonstration of respect for one of the best players in the world.

The goal may have been a joy to behold, the perfect combination of technique and athletic ability, but it was also a fierce reminder that Ronald remains one of the dominant forces in world football.

At 33 years of age some onlookers have suggested that the Portuguese superstar’s powers may be beginning to wain and that his best years are behind him.

This was simply further evidence that such speculation is unfounded.

Ronaldo’s statistics this season are remarkable.

He has scored 23 goals in his last 12 games for Real Madrid and 39 goals in 36 appearances this campaign.

He has scored 43 goals in total for club and country this season.

He has scored in every Champions League tie this campaign, 14 in total, and is the first player to score in all six group games and in 10 consecutive ties.

(Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Furthermore, he is Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer (446) and the all-time leading goal scorer in Champions League history (119).

You would struggle to replicate those figures if you were playing on a computer game.

There is absolutely no sign the Ronaldo’s prowess is in decline and, if anything, he looks more prominent now than ever.

In addition to this, the common accusation that he fails to produce in the ‘big games’ has firmly been dispelled this season.

In the Champions League alone, he has scored against Tottenham Hotspur (both ties), Borussia Dortmund (both ties), Paris Saint Germain (both ties) and Juventus.

Ronaldo truly is a modern genius on the football pitch and his remarkable goal on Tuesday night was a reminder that the 33-year-old intends to remain at the pinnacle of the game for a long time to come.

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Champions League

Liverpool fans rave after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb defensive performance

The teenager marshalled Leroy Sane brilliantly throughout the match.

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Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool delivered the shock result of the Champions League season tonight, demolishing Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sadio Mane sealed the deal for the Reds in the opening half hour, but perhaps the most impressive part of the match was the exceptional performance of Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The young fullback had been targeted by City as a possible weak link, given his shaky starts in other big matches this year. Just weeks ago against Manchester United, the 19-year-old was torn to shreds by Marcus Rashford, looking out of place and overwhelmed.

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

And Pep Guardiola set up to isolate the English youngster and attacked down his wing with purpose. Diagonal balls in the direction of Leroy Sane were a constant fixture of Manchester City’s play, but Alexander-Arnold stood firm, contributing to Liverpool’s vital clean sheet.

To keep a clean sheet in the quarterfinals of the Champions League is impressive on its own, but to do it against the champions-elect, the top-scorers in the Premier League, and without one of your first choice centre-backs, is sensational.

Alexander-Arnold was at the heart of the Reds’ valiant defensive performance, and observers on Twitter rightly applauded him for his efforts.

Fans also commented on Alexander-Arnold’s tender age, a factor that made his performance even the more impressive.

The ever-popular back pocket joke also circulated on the Twittersphere, many supporters couldn’t resist the classic banter when describing Alexander-Arnold’s domination of Sane.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, take a bow son.

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