Should Harry Kane score three goals in Tottenham’s two remaining games of 2017, he will equal Alan Shearer’s 22-year-old record of 36 Premier League goals in a calendar year. There will be headlines and plaudits but no trophies, which neatly sums up Kane’s career to date.
Back in 1995, Shearer’s ultimately pointless calendar year record was punctuated by a Premier League trophy, but the caveat is that Shearer was merely Blackburn’s gun for hire. Kane has far more in the common with the Shearer of seven years later, who scored more goals than either Ruud van Nistelrooy or Thierry Henry. Their less impressive 2002 totals both contributed to league title victories.
Like Shearer, Kane is English football’s form striker and yet is winning absolutely nothing with the club he loves. For now, it seems to be enough. Which makes him a fascinating anomaly in 2017.
Were you to be told that English football’s most prolific goalscorer over the last three seasons was currently playing for a team in seventh that had not won a trophy in the last ten years, you would be asking where they were going in January. Or at least which clubs were likely to be in the market for his £100m-plus services next summer. But this is Kane and Tottenham, and you would not be surprised if Kane were still a Tottenham player in five years’ time, still winning Golden Boots and precious little else, long after Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose have departed.
If that makes you feel oddly uncomfortable, then you are not alone. It jars in today’s football climate that Kane will accept lower wages than his contemporaries, never instruct his agents to leak rumours of interest from Europe’s richest clubs or talk publicly about the club needing to match his ambitions. It may even jar with his teammates, with recent reports suggesting that Kane’s willingness to accept ‘lower’ wages of close to £100,000 a week has hamstrung their contract negotiations. If there is a ceiling to what Kane can a) earn and b) win, it is a ceiling at least partially constructed by Kane himself.
“In my opinion, he doesn’t need titles to show he’s one of the best strikers,” said Mauricio Pochettino to a chorus of ‘well, he would say that’, but we wonder how Kane feels this week, watching Arsenal, both Manchester clubs and Chelsea bid to reach the semi-finals of a competition his own manager dismissed.
Certainly, it must have hurt to lose so comprehensively to Manchester City on Saturday; to be 21 points behind the champions elect is almost perverse when you boast the most prolific striker in the Premier League. And yet, his response of ‘got to stick together, work even harder and go again’ is quintessential Harry Kane: Football-speak but with a heart.
Kane sits second on our list of top ten players of 2017. Only Kevin de Bruyne rated higher, largely because his performances in the latter half of this year are likely to bring at least a Premier League trophy. Of the other eight names, David Silva is on course for a third Premier League title, Kyle Walker is on course for a first, two players won the title in 2017 (Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta), two won two trophies in 2017 (Paul Pogba and David De Gea), one switched clubs in pursuit of trophies (Romelu Lukaku) and another tried but failed to move and will undoubtedly try again (Philippe Coutinho). Kane is very much the odd man out; he is neither winning nor moving.
In 2017, it is not having a full-body tattoo or a colourful haircut that makes a Premier League footballer rebellious, it is having no tattoos at all, a sensible haircut and no desire to leave the club you love.
“I will always try to be as normal as I can,” said Kane in 2015. Make that normal for an everyman, but not normal for a superstar footballer.