Heading into the October international break, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola listed his side’s main Premier League rivals: Manchester United and “the Harry Kane team.” Tottenham Hotspur, and in particular manager Mauricio Pochettino, slammed the Catalan’s comments as disrespectful to the rest of his team, which includes Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen, English midfielder Dele Alli, Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld, and French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Yet following a hamstring strain suffered in a 4-1 victory over Liverpool, Kane was left out of the lineup for the midweek Carabao Cup fixture against West Ham and didn’t make the trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United over the weekend. Spurs squandered a 2-0 lead to fall 3-2 against the Hammers and lacked a cutting edge in a 1-0 loss to the Red Devils.
Kane returned to the lineup for the Champions League match against Real Madrid and immediately provided a spark in his return from injury, as Tottenham waltzed to a 3-1 win to book their place in the knockout stages of Europe’s top competition.
Kane has been directly involved in 19 Spurs goals this season (16 goals and three assists). No one else in the team has contributed more than nine, and, as seen in the two matches that the English striker missed, Spurs is a different beast with him leading the line. His performances thus far have garnered interest from the boardroom at the Bernabeu, and his play in the two matches against Madrid justified the hype.
Kane has shed the “one season wonder” moniker that was handed to him after his blistering second half of the 2014-15 season and won the Premier League Golden Boot in the ensuing two seasons, his first two full years in the top flight, despite multiple injury layoffs in 2016-17. He scored the vital goal that qualified England for the World Cup in Russia, and is indisputably the best striker in the world.
This Tottenham team is good in its own right. Gone are the days when Gareth Bale single-handedly pulled games out of the bag for the Lilywhites, and when the club’s best players were poached by a bigger club (Sol Campbell to Arsenal, Luka Modric and Bale to Madrid). Pochettino has built a slick side featuring Alli, Eriksen, South Korean star Son Heung-Min, driven by midfield engines Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama, and anchored by physically imposing, yet technically talented defenders in Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, and Davinson Sanchez.
The quality throughout the side would likely see Spurs in the top four by itself, but Kane makes the team elite. Harry Kane is to Tottenham as Lionel Messi is to Barcelona. Messi is the star for the Catalans, and how Messi goes, so does Barcelona. The same holds true for Kane and Tottenham.
Spurs can play with anyone in the world on its day. They have promising young talent that Pochettino has shown a knack for fostering if the success from midfielder Harry Winks is anything to go by. But if Tottenham wants trophies, it needs a healthy Harry Kane leading the line. Otherwise, it will continue its trophy drought, and the red side of London will forever rejoice.