At a recent event at Hotel Football, Gary Neville discussed the reasons why Manchester United should sign Harry Kane in the next few years. He likened buying the Tottenham striker to “signing gold”, with him guaranteeing at least 25 goals a season.
United have been linked to the Spurs player for a few years but over recent seasons it was hard to make an argument that he should trade the north London club for Old Trafford, given they have finished above United in three of the last four seasons. As a boyhood Spurs fan, he’s living the dream playing in the first team and banging goals in most weeks. They’ve had a couple of title challenges and have been playing Champions League football, while United had done neither.
Yet with every season that passes where his team don’t win a trophy, he’s got to wonder whether he is willing to sacrifice the success he could have elsewhere for the sake of playing for Spurs.
Alan Shearer, whose footsteps Kane is following in, famously chose his boyhood team Newcastle over Manchester United. He spent a decade playing for the north-east side, winning nothing, while Sir Alex Ferguson oversaw five league title wins, one European Cup, two FA Cups, one League Cup and one Intercontinental Cup during that time.
“Of course I was tempted to join Manchester United, but I do not regret the decision,” Shearer later reflected. “I completed my own dream of playing for my home town club of Newcastle. I have memories I will hold forever and a goal scoring record that makes me extremely proud.”
Maybe one day Kane will be saying the same thing about his record, particularly if he continues to claim goals he didn’t score, with Spurs looking a long way away from winning the title or Champions League.
There are more important things than trophies in football. Playing for the club you’ve grown up dreaming about must be hugely rewarding but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a waste of talent. Kane could be scoring goals for a team that is winning competitions now. He will cling to the hope that, sooner or later, everything clicks for Spurs, especially with the money their new stadium will bring, but how long will he wait?
Events of the past few weeks suggest that Kane may not have what it takes to make it at a big club anyway.
He’s been the butt of everyone’s joke after claiming Christian Eriksen’s goal against Stoke for himself to close the gap on Mo Salah for the Golden Boot. On social media, the memes and jokes have reached John Terry full-kit and Paul Gascoigne fishing and chicken proportions.
You would think such jokes would be like water off a duck’s back to a well-adjusted adult, yet Mauricio Pochettino revealed it had got to Kane.
“It’s normal that he was a little bit disappointed [by the response] because Harry and all our players have Twitter, Instagram and all those things, and while Tottenham fans will have supported him, fans of other clubs will have killed him,” he revealed.
“People have opinions, but that is normal. He was disappointed because he never wanted to create this. Sometimes it can seem a simple thing, and then it becomes big and you can’t stop it. That is what happened here. I think he is going to learn a lot from this.”
Imagine caring less about what people on social media had to say about him claiming the goal. What is there to be disappointed about?
Following this, Kane had a poor game against United in the FA Cup semi-final and Spurs were knocked out. Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera put United in the final while Tottenham, despite the advantage of playing at a ground they have used all season, lost their eighth FA Cup semi-final in a row.
The FA Cup Twitter account then tweeted a joke playing a video of Chris Smalling, who put in a great shift at Wembley, asking what was in his pocket, with footage showing the defender saying “Harry Kane” on repeat.
Again, Kane was upset over something so trivial.
“Harry was very sad,” Pochettino said. “But he’s strong in his mind. He’s moved on. We are helping him to move on. It was a mistake and he needs to move on quick. These types of situation – like the tweet after the game – don’t help to create a good atmosphere. I’m sure that Harry is not happy.”
Then, at the PFA awards, the organisation’s chairman, Ben Purkiss, made a joke at Kane’s expense. “Harry Kane is so prolific that he is able to score without touching the ball,” he said.
The Mirror reported that Kane and his family were “furious” with Purkiss and the recent surge in jibes about him. The report claimed that Kane was “upset by the lack of respect” he was being shown, while his family claimed he was being bullied.
It makes you wonder how he would cope with real criticism and bad press if this light-hearted banter gets to him so much. David Beckham’s face was put in the centre of cut out dartboards on the back pages of the papers after his sending off in the 1998 World Cup, with effigies of him hung in London and death threats sent to his home. Beckham was hounded at every away game while visiting fans at Old Trafford jeered his every touch. In response, Beckham had a fantastic season and played a key role in United’s treble winning success.
“David Beckham’s sending off cost us dearly,” England manager at the time, Glen Hoddle, said after the game. “I am not denying it cost us the game.” Beckham later claimed this interview “fed the frenzy” that followed.
If Kane is bothered about some spotty teenager who mans the FA Cup Twitter account sending out a daft tweet, imagine how he would cope with the manager of the national team hanging him out to dry.
Before now, Kane has had it relatively easy, hailed as England’s “golden boy”, largely left alone by rival fans and adored by the media. But the first time he receives any negativity, which is largely just a light ribbing, he’s this upset? The likes of Raheem Sterling and Paul Pogba, who get murdered in the press and by supporters over the smallest of things, must be scratching their heads.
Imagine the scrutiny Kane would be under if he played for a club like United. If he is ever going to make the step up to a bigger club, United or anywhere else, he’s certainly going to need a thicker skin.