How much longer will Harry Kane tolerate a career without trophies? | Football

A penny for the thoughts of Harry Kane as he witnessed scenes of jubilation unfold outside Anfield, perhaps pondering the notion that, seven seasons into his career as a senior professional with Tottenham, the team he represents has yet to win even one of domestic football’s far less coveted baubles.

The often-ridiculed phrase “This Means More” was coined by Liverpool long before it applied to an inevitable increase in local Covid-19 cases caused by socially irresponsible public celebrations. The unbridled delight of fans who have seen their team win the Champions League, Premier League and Club World Cup in little over a year is unlikely to have been lost on a player who, for all the individual plaudits he has earned, remains resolutely a footballing bridesmaid rather than bride in terms of major honours won. Playing for Tottenham obviously matters a great deal to Kane, but at 26 he has reached a point in his career where lining up for a team more likely to win silverware would surely mean more.

How much would it mean to him to see fans in the colours of a team for whom he plays celebrate a title win in such a fashion? To be part of a squad of garlanded footballers who have hoisted more trophies skywards at home and abroad in the past 13 months than any in Tottenham shirts have lifted in the past 34 years? To ply his trade under the supervision and instruction of a charming, almost universally popular manager whose most successful years look to be ahead of, not behind, him? To win things? He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t wonder.

Despite having 137 top-flight goals to his name – 64 more than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah – Kane looks no closer to winning a Premier League title or Champions League title than he did during his days on loan at Leyton Orient. His CV is punctuated with prestigious individual gongs, but the team successes he craves remain notable by their glaring absence. Considering most teams at Europe’s top table would be glad to have him and the goals he brings, he could be excused for weighing up his options.

“I’ll always love Spurs, but it’s one of them things,” he said when quizzed about his future plans by Jamie Redknapp in March. “I’ve always said if I don’t feel like we’re progressing as a team or going in the right direction, I’m not someone to stay there just for the sake of it.”

In common with many sit-downs footballers conduct with fellow professionals in whose company they tend to feel less wary, Kane’s comments were delivered with raw honesty and highlighted the naked ambition that burns beneath his largely equable exterior.

At the time of his chat with Redknapp, Kane was recuperating from injury and Tottenham’s most recent result had been a pre-lockdown Champions League thrashing at the hands of RB Leipzig. On José Mourinho’s relatively brief watch they have won 12, lost 10 and drawn six of their matches, during which time the manager also appears to have alienated the club’s record signing, Tanguy Ndombele. Even the Tories at their most delusional and duplicitous would struggle to spin such outcomes as reasons to be particularly cheerful.

José Mourinho’s ability to get the best out of Harry Kane has been questioned.



José Mourinho’s ability to get the best out of Harry Kane has been questioned. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

It was unsurprising, when recently dismissing the notion Kane may struggle to maintain his proficiency in front of goal under a tactical style many consider to be moribund, Mourinho elected to discuss his past achievements rather than future plans. Unprompted, he listed five big-name strikers and how they had thrived in collaboration with him, deftly sidestepping the specific recent criticism of his current team’s style of play by Paul Merson. A pundit whose fondness for a laugh and occasional lack of articulacy belies a keen tactical mind, the former Arsenal midfielder had suggested that perhaps getting Toby Alderweireld or Davinson Sánchez to lump it long and hope for the best is perhaps not the best way to maximise Kane’s particular skill set.

“No one with any understanding of the art of centre-forward play would doubt the ability of Harry Kane,” wrote Gary Lineker on social media last week, adding his two cents to a handwringing tweet from the popular American podcasters Men In Blazers that stated “few human beings have been written off, discounted, derided more times” than the Spurs striker. It was quite the big call from citizens of a country whose president has been written off, discounted and derided even more often than the many folk he habitually writes off, discounts and derides on an almost hourly basis.

Meanwhile, back in reality, most were just pleased to see Kane lying exhausted on the turf, arms spread wide and his torso visibly heaving as he hungrily gulped down the evening air in celebration following his goal in Tottenham’s home victory over West Ham.

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In much the same way that few people whose opinions matter think Liverpool’s latest title should be accompanied by an asterisk, those who have repeatedly traduced the striker and his ability seem very few and far between. Fitness permitting, he will continue to score goals and lots of them, even if the matter of who for remains far from certain.

Last week, Mourinho insisted the striker is not for sale and dismissed as ridiculous the notion that he, the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, and the club’s owner, Joe Lewis, will have a job on their hands to convince their most prized asset not to agitate for a move, despite the four years remaining on his contract. “The club doesn’t need to do anything,” Mourinho said. “He doesn’t want anything different from what Mr Levy wants, Mr Lewis wants and I want. He doesn’t want anything different than us.”

Of that there can be little doubt, even if Kane could be forgiven for deciding those needs will be more readily met at a club with trophy-winning pedigree to match his ambition.




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