Mauricio Pochettino did not want to choose between the pair at his press conference on Friday, saying it was natural he would prefer Kane just as Ronald Koeman would prefer Lukaku. But the Argentine did give a rare insight into Kane, talking up his strength of character and his relentless insistence to Pochettino and assistant Jesus Perez that he can do all the training - especially the shooting practice - that he wants.
It was a surprise admission from Pochettino given Kane is one of the most amiable friendly players at Tottenham but it was an illustration of his commitment and drive to become the best player he can.
Pochettino spoke at length about what he understands “strength of character” to mean and how it meant far more than just emotion and noise. “If you see me shouting on the touchline, behaving like a mad man, you will maybe explain that Pochettino has a very strong character,” he said. “But for me, character is not what you show on the touchline. Character is in every single decision: when you're inside, when you are face-to-face in a room - that is when you need to be brave.”
That is what Pochettino meant when he talked up Kane’s character. It means that he knows where he wants to go and he is prepared to challenge and push his own manager, as difficult as that is, to get there. “What I want to explain is Harry Kane has a very good character, he’s very strong, he’s very professional,” Pochettino said. “He’s a player that always challenge you and that is what I like, like Dele [Alli] or Hugo [Lloris].”
The particular issue where Kane challenges Pochettino is in training. Kane loves working hard in training, making himself the best player he possibly can be. But what he especially enjoys is shooting sessions and scoring goals. There are times when Pochettino wants the players to rest when Kane says he would rather be out on the field.
Liverpool vs Tottenham player ratings
Liverpool vs Tottenham player ratings
1/22 Simon Mignolet – 5 out of 10
It was a very quiet day at the office for the keeper – no real tests.
2/22 Nathaniel Clyne – 6 out of 10
His pace caused problems going forward and he looked strong defensively.
3/22 Joel Matip – 6 out of 10
He made a number of crucial tackles and interceptions. However, his tackles were clumsy at times.
4/22 Lucas – 5 out of 10
Should have scored the early header, but defensively he did his job.
5/22 James Milner – 5 out of 10
Wasted a number of set pieces, but as always his work rate is faultless.
6/22 Adam Lallana – 7 out of 10
It was an energetic and determined display from the 28-year-old – impressive all round.
7/22 Jordan Henderson – 7 out of 10
The skipper led by example, looked confident on the ball and worked relentlessly.
8/22 Georgino Wijnaldum – 6 out of 10
His assist for Mane’s opener was spectacular and he continued to pump balls up to the strikers throughout.
9/22 Sadio Mane – 8 out of 10
His two goals made the difference today and he tested Lloris constantly throughout. Tremendous performance.
10/22 Roberto Firmino – 7 out of 10
Was a key outlet throughout and it is a surprise that he did not end up on the scoresheet.
11/22 Philippe Coutinho – 6 out of 10
Was an instrumental element to the Liverpool side particularly in the first half. Carried an immense presence on the ball.
12/22 Hugo Lloris – 5 out of 10
Was a victim of Mane’s attacking excellence. Made a handful of vital stops.
13/22 Kyle Walker – 5 out of 10
He needed to attack more and make better decisions in possession.
14/22 Toby Alderweireld – 5 out of 10
His positioning was certainly questionable at times and looked too static.
15/22 Eric Dier – 4 out of 10
Was at fault for Mane’s second goal - should have done better to deny the Liverpool forwards.
16/22 Ben Davies – 3 out of 10
Struggled to read the game and couldn’t keep up with Mane for the opening goal.
17/22 Mousa Dembele – 5 out of 10
Outclassed by the Liverpool midfielders and failed to create any service for the forwards.
18/22 Victor Wanyama – 6 out of 10
Battled relentlessly, but at times he was just over-powered in the middle of the park.
19/22 Christian Eriksen – 6 out of 10
Showed glimpses of brilliance, but it was not enough. As always, his set pieces were sublime.
20/22 Dele Alli – 6 out of 10
He lacked an outlet and as the game progressed his frustration was evident.
21/22 Heung-Min Son – 4 out of 10
His positioning was all wrong – he was playing way too high up the pitch and this left a huge gap in the middle.
22/22 Harry Kane – 6 out of 10
A lacklustre performance for a man of such high standards. He failed to make an impact and only had one touch inside of the Liverpool box.
“Sometimes Harry is upset because he wants to do finishing on the afternoon and we say no,” Pochettino revealed with a smile. “‘It’s not the moment. Tomorrow.’ ‘No, but I want to today in the afternoon. I want to do double session.’ ‘Harry, no. Harry, no.’ ‘Oh gaffer, Jesus [Perez], come on, I feel good, I am not tired.’ ‘No, but it’s not good for you.’ Then it was, ‘OK, on the end, maybe half an hour finishing.’ Even though we needed to call two or three keepers from the Academy. That shows his determination and character.”
Not many Tottenham players challenge Pochettino on his methods but the fact that Kane can push and push him and get what he wants – all in entirely good spirit it must be said – shows the natural authority that the 23-year-old has here. The fact that he has 66 Premier League goals already counts for something too, a remarkable record. Lukaku, also 23, is doing even better with 77. Of course Pochettino did not want to go into too much detail comparing the two but his admiration for both players was clear.
“We need to be very respectful with both,” Pochettino said. “I know everyone wants to discuss who is better. For me, both are great players with their quality and their skills. For me both would be in a list of the best 10 strikers in Europe. To compare is too difficult. If you ask Koeman, Lukaku is the best. If you ask me, of course, Harry Kane is the best. For different qualities, both are great, great strikers.”