Harry Kane: Destiny will be calling Tottenham striker at Euro 2016 – and it might take him away from Spurs

Football Matters

Harry Kane will look back on 2015 as the year which launched his career, but 2016 is likely to be the one which defines it. How, and where, he finds himself at the beginning of 2017 will ultimately be decided by what happens in the next six months and, crucially, how he performs at Euro 2016 with England.

There is nothing quite like a major tournament when it comes to mapping out a footballer’s destiny and the Tottenham forward will travel to France aware of the life-changing possibilities that lie in front of him in Marseilles, Lens, Saint-Etienne and beyond.

The ambition and growth of Spurs will be inextricably linked to Kane’s progress between now and the end of Euro 2016 and this will be as important a year for the White Hart Lane club as it is for their most prized asset.

When an 18-year-old Michael Owen raced through Argentina’s defence to score the goal which instantly transformed him from teenage prodigy to global superstar at France ’98, Liverpool, at the time, were a club capable of holding on to their top talent and the England forward remained at Anfield for another six years.

Whether Tottenham can persuade Kane that they are able to provide the platform worthy of his growing stature is a question which is already being raised, but it is one that will become so much more difficult to answer if the 22-year-old is the latest England player to reach for the stars at a major tournament.

In 1986, Gary Lineker travelled to the World Cup in Mexico having finished as a runner-up in the league and FA Cup with Everton, but he returned as the winner of the Golden Boot, with a move to Barcelona secured by his six goals in the tournament.

Four years later, David Platt made a late surge into Bobby Robson’s World Cup squad, just two years after leaving Crewe Alexandra for Aston Villa, and travelled to Italia ’90 as no more than cover for Bryan Robson and Steve McMahon.

But a winner in the last minute of extra time against Belgium in the second round, after he had started the game as a substitute, was the transformative moment which made Platt’s career. From that point on, the midfielder became an integral part of the team and earned a move to Serie A with Bari, then Juventus and Sampdoria, to become one of English football’s most successful foreign exports.

Paul Gascoigne was another who took his career to a new level at Italia ’90, Alan Shearer became the world’s most expensive player when Newcastle fended off Manchester United to sign the Blackburn forward for £15m following his heroics at Euro ’96 and both Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney earned record-breaking moves to Old Trafford after emerging as England’s outstanding players at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 respectively.

Rooney, having chosen to leave his boyhood club Everton for the lure of glory at United, took the cool-headed decision that is likely to await Kane at Spurs.

The road map is already laid out for Kane. It just depends on which direction he chooses if, or when, the fork in the road approaches. United, Chelsea and Manchester City would already think nothing of breaking the British transfer record in an effort to persuade the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, to sell, regardless of Kane’s performances in the coming months.

There were doubts over his true quality at the end of last season, when he finished second, behind Sergio Aguero, in the Premier League goalscorers’ chart with 21 goals.

It was as though Kane’s campaign was simply too good to be true and that, like many before him, he would find it more demanding trying to repeat his feats and therefore fall victim to the dreaded second-season syndrome.

With his 2015-16 beginning with an eight-game Premier League goal drought, the sceptics began to believe that, although Kane was good, he was not the long-awaited successor to Shearer as a truly world-class English centre-forward.

Kane now has 11 Premier League goals to his name this season, two more for England, and his performance at Everton on Sunday, while failing to score, was a masterclass in centre-forward play. He has become the focal point of Mauricio Pochettino’s team, a striker with the ability not only to score goals, but also to link play and hold the ball up, as Shearer once did for club and country. And he is not even 23 until the end of July.

By then, he may well be playing in Guangzhou or Shanghai on his first pre-season tour with United, or even working on a partnership with Diego Costa at Chelsea, but such has been Tottenham’s progress under Pochettino and the uncertainty surrounding the future at both Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, who is to say that sticking with Spurs will not be Kane’s best option this summer?

Even if City come calling, would playing second fiddle to Aguero be more appealing than having a team built around him in north London?

It is a dilemma that Kane is likely to have to address, however, because English football’s superpowers, and maybe even those from Spain and Germany, like what they see in a player who has benefited from the hard knocks of loan spells at Leicester, Norwich, Millwall and Leyton Orient.


Kane scores for England against Switzerland in September

They will like it even more if he emerges as one of the stars of France 2016 and that is when Kane and Spurs will face that fork in the road.

Matt Le Tissier happily spent a career at Southampton, rejecting offers from bigger and more successful clubs, to remain with one that could not realistically offer him the prospect of silverware or eye-watering wages.

Spurs may be able to provide the trophies – with Kane, they will certainly have a better chance – but the likes of United, Chelsea and City will always blow them out of the water when it comes to the number of noughts on a weekly salary.

Having signed a contract in February last year which ties him to Spurs until 2020, Kane will not be easy to prise away, but the top players will always go where the trophies are, regardless of the fine print on a piece of paper.

So it will say a lot of about Tottenham, and Kane, if he continues to play with a cockerel on his chest next season.

Young’s creative revival at United should nudge England

Ashley Young has not played for England since winning the last of his 30 caps against Ukraine in September 2013, so the 30-year-old would appear to have disappeared off Roy Hodgson’s radar ahead of Euro 2016.

But the Manchester United winger has been one of the few positives in recent weeks at Old Trafford and, against Swansea at the weekend, delivered a stream of quality crosses for Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial. Service is crucial for strikers and, after deploying Young as a full-back, Louis van Gaal now appears to have discovered the value of a player who can actually create chances for his forwards.


Ashley Young has not played for England since September 2013

It is an ill wind that will blow Klopp to Stoke

In an interview with Bild last week, Jürgen Klopp gave a novel reason for Liverpool’s stop-start progress since his arrival as manager in October.

“The wind can be quite extreme in England,” Klopp said. “We are not familiar with that in Germany and players who are not from the UK have to get used to the winds.”

Looking forward to your Capital One Cup semi-final at Stoke tonight then, Jürgen?