World-class yet misunderstood, Harry Kane remains England’s best horse

<span>Harry Kane has scored 63 goals in 91 games for <a class=England and 58 in 74 under Gareth Southgate.Photo: Paul Cooper/Daily Telegraph/PA” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 31dcbd5caaee53″ data-src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ bd5caaee53″/>

Southgate in crisis. England in Euro flip-flop. Kane: My (in retrospect) sad and doomed hope for trophies. Plus a changeplus the same bleeding thing.

Whenever Harry Kane approaches a key point in his career, it’s always tempting to look down the time tunnel for a poignant comparison in contemporary style. If you go back a decade, Kane, more than any other top footballer, is likely to have been on the bench at AFC Egham or scored a hat-trick against Bogford Cheesedown in the quarter-finals of the 37th Copydex Industrial Sealants play-offs.

Related: Team guides for Euro 2024 part 10: England

As the England captain prepares to lead the team to this summer’s European Championship, that look back in time feels particularly appropriate, with a sense that the past is finally starting to catch up with the present. Kane’s only action in the summer of 2014 was being called off the bench by England Under-21 manager Gareth Southgate in the dying moments of a 3-1 Euro qualifying win against Wales, the fifth attacker on the night was deployed behind Saido Berahino, Nathan Redmond, Tom Ince and Danny Ings.

Twelve months later, Kane played every minute of that junior European Championship as England limped out of the group stages, leaving the inexperienced Gareth under fire from the press and dismissing the class of 2015 as another defeated generation.

Gary Lineker lamented Southgate’s “irritatingly amateurish” selections. There were calls for another major reassessment of the so-called English DNA route, instituted by (who he?) Dan Ashworth. “Young players don’t work hard enough,” raged Harry Redknapp, who is believed to have met the dementedly dedicated teenager Kane.

Two lonely voices brought some positivity. Kane, who the Guardian report said was “a lot better than his teammates” in the key defeat to Italy, spoke playfully about his dream of one day lifting a trophy with England. A little lost in the general outrage, Southgate spoke at length about “some good characters who will come to the senior team through this group”.

Southgate was right on the point and remains so as England settle into their pastoral training idyll ahead of their opening match against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday. Three years after the 2015 collapse, five members of that derided under-21 team featured in Southgate’s World Cup semi-final in Russia.

Just as unexpectedly, Kane, one of those ‘good characters’, has become perhaps England’s greatest player, at least according to Wayne Rooney, who knows a thing or two about it, and certainly beyond the only ones who won a cup sixty years ago.

This European Championship finals is a big moment for Kane, for the Kane Supremacy and for his own sense of near-greatness. He turns 31 next month, and 33 shortly after the next World Cup ends. No doubt Kane wants to go on forever and retire at 65 to score goals in the NFL. But history shows that the life of an English goalscorer is grueling, and it always comes a little later than you think. Rooney was 33 when he played his last game, Alan Shearer 29, Michael Owen 28, Lineker 31, Kevin Keegan 31, Bobby Charlton 32, Geoff Hurst 30.

With this in mind, it’s worth reiterating how extraordinarily good Kane has been; and how important he still is to England’s hopes today, despite the presence of stronger, more fashionable attackers.

It’s worth taking another look at those English numbers just because they’re so undeniably good, beyond the reach of even the most dedicated hater. Sixty-three goals in 91 games. Fifty-eight in 74 under Southgate; 12 goals in tournaments. Six in tournament knockout matches. One golden World Cup boot. Best goals-per-game ratio of any English player with over 30.

He also remains at his peak. The season just ended at Bayern Munich may bring its own note of trophyless gallows humor, but on a personal level, Kane has just pulled off the best foreign debut season for any English player, all while playing for the third-best team. . Thirty-six goals and eight assists in 32 Bundesliga games. Eight and four in the Champions League. European golden boot is one of three in the Premier League. This is a football machine.

So much so that you occasionally wonder if Kane was a little cooler, if his name was Blaze van der Sexdrive instead of Harry Kane, if he looked less like a Victorian actuary with a heart of gold, if he was more cut-and-dried was, more unnecessary flashing, maybe he gets a little more credit. But Harry Kane’s lack of understanding has been a theme throughout his career, strangely for such a straight-talking footballer.

Most obviously, there is the irony of Kane, the ultimate team player, who only wins individual trophies but never team trophies. On the other hand, he has spent his entire career, except for one season, with teams that have an explicit aversion to winning. Would winning three consecutive league titles as an ensemble piece at Manchester City make him a better footballer? Only for those who think furiously literally.

It’s clear that Kane stayed at Spurs a little too long, but then it’s easy to forget that his career always seemed like a treat, a glorious bonus. Kane was never a child prodigy. He bounced around the Football League on various loans. He loved finding his own ceiling at Spurs, but three years ago he bungled his own departure, trapped in his own contract.

Even the move to Bayern, just when they stopped winning the league, seems to be a consequence of that mistake. Other elite clubs thought he was too expensive at 30. Bayern found it valuable. Their manager is currently Vincent Kompany. Is this a well-run club? Or a club that Kane is expected to carry to glory again on his creaking, ticking back?

The sense of a fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly Kane has achieved is also present among England, who are routinely accused of having an impossible hand of talent and making the world jealous so that not winning every trophy is seen as a failure seen.

The truth is that Kane’s most regular attacking partner during the Southgate years was Raheem Sterling (62 appearances), followed by Marcus Rashford (44), his most frequent midfielder Jordan Henderson. Do these really sound like A-list generational players? Or like very good footballers who at the time were driven by England’s only tournament striker who was truly world class, the man in the 10 shirt?

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And this is the real point about Kane in Germany 2024. He is still the only member of this team’s attack who has done it regularly for England so far. Surrounding him are some surprisingly talented players. But the fact remains that Phil Foden has scored four goals in 34 international matches. Bukayo Saka has played some wonderful matches, but has also missed a lot and is not fully fit. Jude Bellingham already has the world in his hand. But he’s only twenty. His moments with England are yet to come.

While Kane is the form horse as always. There is a tactical element here. To succeed in this England team, Kane will have to play as he did at Bayern, as a classic 9 high up the pitch. England don’t need him as a playmaker. With Bellingham and Foden on the pitch there is a danger of that area becoming clogged. Perhaps Kane’s desire to drop deep is one of the reasons these players haven’t really been able to shine in that role yet. On this team, and for so many reasons, he needs to be the sharpest edge.

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