OLIVER HOLT: Harry Kane faces the biggest decision of his life this summer and Jose Mourinho’s tactics may push England captain to the brink of a Tottenham exit
- Harry Kane faces a huge decision on his Tottenham future this summer window
- The Spurs star has been sidelined after injuring his ankles against Liverpool
- At 27, Kane’s chances of winning the big trophies under Jose Mourinho are slim
- The England captain may not have the chance to make a big move again
The news that Harry Kane had damaged not just one ankle, but both of them, in Tottenham’s defeat by Liverpool on Thursday and the suggestion he may be out of the Spurs side for up to a month concentrated minds again on just what a special player the England centre-forward is and quite how much he will be missed by his team at a critical juncture of the season.
Is there a player in the Premier League more important to his club than Kane is to Tottenham? Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United? Maybe. But the impact of Fernandes has been more startling because of the transformative effect he has had on his team since he arrived in England a year ago. Kane puts up astonishing numbers season in and season out.
This season, it is not just that he is second behind Mo Salah in the list of the league’s leading goalscorers. It is just as striking that he is the league’s leading provider of assists, ahead of Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Fernandes. If it were not for the inverse snobbery that comes with the fact that he is English, he would be more readily recognised as one of the best players in the world.
Harry Kane is set to miss a critical juncture of the season after injuring both of his ankles
Spurs will feel the absence of their talisman who is one of the most influential in the league
He is doing all this, too, in a Tottenham side predicated around the caution of Jose Mourinho. Not even the manager’s most ardent admirers would claim he is a promoter of free-flowing attacking football but Kane and his brilliant forward partner, Son Heung-min, have thrived in the manager’s counter-attacking system.
But Thursday’s loss to the ailing champions felt like a pivotal moment in Spurs’ season. It was a performance which, once again, shone a light on late-career-Mourinho’s inability to seize the big moments, which infuriated many Spurs fans because of its lack of ambition and which, most importantly of all, exploded the lingering notion Spurs were title contenders.
Until then, many had wondered whether this season, with its anarchic rhythms and turbulent results, might give a clever, pragmatic operator like Mourinho the opportunity to step into the vacuum and seize the day.
Tottenham’s loss to Liverpool feels like a pivotal moment and Kane could be at a crossroads
The marksman turns 28 this summer and will wonder if he’ll win the big trophies with Mourinho
Man City have been linked with Kane and Spurs may not be able to turn down a big offer
That idea seems fanciful now, particularly given that Manchester City have hit their formidable stride. And it leaves an awkward question hanging in the air for Spurs: if they are not going to challenge now, when so much is in flux, when will they ever challenge?
The same question will be going through Kane’s mind during the enforced period on the sidelines that awaits him. As he nurses his swollen ankles, the England captain knows that the biggest decision of his football life is looming this summer. Should he stay or should he go? Should he stick with Spurs or should he move on in pursuit of the game’s big prizes?
Given their parlous financial state, it seems unlikely that Real Madrid or Barcelona would be able to muster a bid close to the £100million it would take to get Kane out of Spurs. But Manchester City have long been rumoured to be preparing an attempt to lure him to the north as a replacement for Sergio Aguero and, if a bid materialises, the state of Spurs’ own finances as they struggle with the costs of their new stadium and the effects of the pandemic may make it difficult for Daniel Levy to turn down.
Yet Kane could be drawn to the prospect of becoming a one-club legend in north London
The England captain is on track to break Jimmy Greaves’ record as the club’s top goalscorer
I hope Kane stays at Spurs. There are few things in football as powerful as a one-club man and what a legacy it would be for Kane if he remains at the club and overtakes Jimmy Greaves to become Tottenham’s leading scorer of all time. That record is well within his compass but whether he passes it or not, if he stays he will be revered at one of the great footballing institutions in this country for the rest of his life. A legacy like that is a precious commodity not available to many.
Winning the biggest trophies isn’t everything. Greaves never won the league. Steven Gerrard didn’t win the league. Nor did Gary Lineker. Nor did Paul Gascoigne, arguably England’s greatest player in the last 50 years. And yet all are regarded with great affection. In fact, Gerrard’s reputation on Merseyside was enhanced by the fact he chose to stay at Liverpool when he could have chased glories with Chelsea.
That is the dilemma Kane faces. The reality is that Spurs took a step backwards when they appointed Mourinho to replace Mauricio Pochettino, who took Tottenham to the brink of triumph in the Champions League and the Premier League. But Spurs will be happy if they qualify for the Champions League now, let alone win it. Under Mourinho, lightly regarded cups are likely to be their ceiling.
Kane’s future depends on what he wants as the striker faces a tricky decision this summer
So it depends on what Kane wants. Will winning the Carabao Cup be enough for him? If he wants to win the big trophies, if ambition is everything, then he will press for a transfer in the summer. He will be 28 in July. This is his last chance to make a big move. After this year, his age means his attractiveness to suitors will begin to wane.
There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Kane does not need to worry about fortune, not in its modern sense, anyway. But his career is at the flood and Kane will know that if he is set on moving, there is no time to lose.
Roman ruins his chances
It was tempting to think that Roman Abramovich did not understand his club or their supporters when he sacked Frank Lampard as manager on Monday but perhaps it is closer to the truth to say that some of us persist in not understanding him.
Roman Abramovich demonstrated his impatience as he sacked Frank Lampard this week
For many in English football, the identity of a club is strengthened by having local players in the team. It has always been a powerful driver in the success stories of England’s two greatest clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool, and Lampard had begun the process of tapping into that emotion at Chelsea.
That doesn’t matter to Abramovich. All he sees is the moment. All he feels is impatience. All he is ruled by is ruthlessness. It is maybe why he will never get a Chelsea team playing the kind of football he yearns to see.
Brady in pantheon of greats
Tom Brady was already one of the greatest sportsmen of all time before he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl with a thrilling underdog victory over the Green Bay Packers last week.
But win or lose against the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday, the fact that America’s greatest quarterback has achieved such outstanding success after moving on from the New England Patriots and that he has done it at the age of 43, establishes him incontrovertibly among a very select group of superstars.
Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Babe Ruth, Pele, Don Bradman, Jack Nicklaus, Roger Federer — Brady deserves to be in the pantheon with them.
NFL superstar Tom Brady is destined for recognition as one of the world’s greatest athletes
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