Heart Of Football

Heart Of Football: Buy, or keep faith in someone like Kane?

The Premier League season is already history. The cheque books are out, and Manchester City have begun buying the Monaco players who embarrassed them in the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola now has two Silva linings to his midfield. David (The Magician) will presumably move wider to let Bernardo Silva, the Portuguese player they liken to Messi down in Monaco, become the central hub, the No. 10 role.

And even with the distraction that Guardiola's wife and two daughters were at the ill-fated Ariana Grande concert last Monday, he is working to bring left back Benjamin Mendy, also from Monaco.

If you can't beat them, buy 'em.

Both players, and others including the thrilling teenage striker Kylian Mbappe, are on many a shopping list for Europe's top brass.

And even with a Russian billionaire owner of their own, the Monegasque club's reward for their European adventure is to be pillaged (for many millions of dollars) by those who can afford to pick the very best cherries.

The English, if there are any really top clubs still operating under native patrimony these days, now push their own youth to the margins. Chelsea once had 38 players, from academy kids to imported teenagers, out on loan at the same time.

Imagine "owning" Romelu Lukaku, letting him go to Everton, and now having to compete to the tune of £50 million (S$88 million) or more to get him back.

Imagine shipping out Victor Moses on short-term loans to Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham because Chelsea didn't see him as more than an understudy to what they already had.

Correction, because Chelsea while Jose Mourinho was in charge, did not see either Lukaku or Moses as first-team material (even though Lukaku is now rumoured to be on Mourinho's wanted list for Manchester United).

It took Antonio Conte to see the energy and adaptability in Moses and, at 26, which is mid-career, to convert him from a winger to a wing-back with all the responsibility to make tackles that Moses has relished this season.

He made up for time lost during two injury spells that robbed him of eight appearances in the league. He pushed his numbers to 29 goals in 30 games, while also assisting in seven other goals. 

There are more, many more like Kevin de Bruyne, who grew impatient and felt overlooked at Chelsea and wandered abroad to be rediscovered by an acquisitive Man City.

Meanwhile, down at the Lane, Tottenham Hotspur fans sing "He's One of Our Own" whenever Harry Kane is scoring.

One of the Spurs' own, indeed.

Kane was born in Chingford, not too far from the north London home of Tottenham. He was briefly attached to the Arsenal academy, but Spurs fans can forgive him that because he was eight years old at the time.

Arsenal didn't rate him. One youth coach has since said that you had to look hard and often at the gangly, awkward ugly duckling of a lad that Kane had to grow through to see any sign of a swan in him.

This lack of recognition persisted even when, despite being a grown man and a goal-hungry one, successive Tottenham managers doubted him.

At 18, Kane was loaned out to fourth division Leyton Orient. Over the next few seasons he had temporary spells with Millwall, Norwich and Leicester.

None of those, nor even Spurs, had any inkling of the striker inside Kane. Indeed, he was sometimes used out on the wing, even as a holding midfield player.

Kane's background is Irish, but his middle name ought to be Percy, as in perseverance. He isn't just a Tottenham regular now, he's very obviously the leader of the team's attack.

Dele Alli clearly looks an instinctive marvel that England has long lacked. Son Heung Min buzzes around and scores when Kane doesn't. Christian Eriksen chips in, literally, with astute assists and goals when required.

And that foursome are fearsome.

Yet it is Kane, one of their own, who draws from the manager Mauricio Pochettino the praise that few who watched him grow up expected to hear.

"Harry? What to say about him?" asks Pochettino rhetorically. "He's one of the best strikers in the world. Two seasons in a row top scorer in the league, already we are looking to the next season."

The "bigger" clubs would bid if they had the slightest hint that Spurs would sell. Or that Kane would want to play elsewhere.

We all need to be honest. Those who saw Kane grow out of his gangly awkwardness might have gleaned the utter determination in him, but the best we concluded was that he was a trier. That he was tireless, aggressive in a sporting way, a team player.

But the Kane who has blossomed confounds those limitations. He does, indeed, have the work rate and at times single-mindedness of an Alan Shearer about him.

Yet there is selflessness as well as hunger inside Kane. Even in the astonishing final week of Spurs' season, when the main Premier League prize had gone to Chelsea, he scored back-to-back hat-tricks - four goals in the away game at Leicester and three at Hull.

Nobody - not Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa or Sergio Aguero - was going to take away his Golden Boot.

He made up for time lost during two injury spells that robbed him of eight appearances in the league. He pushed his numbers to 29 goals in 30 games, while also assisting in seven other goals.

He never drinks alcohol. He and his childhood sweetheart Kate Goodland had their first child in January. They named her Ivy, which is a relief because the couple's two labrador dogs answer to the names Brady and Wilson (after the NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Russell Wilson).

So there are other things in Harry's world. It's just that his numbers, virtually a goal a game, correspond to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

He isn't on their level. But for two seasons running, after becoming the main man at White Hart Lane, he's been in a Premier League class of his own.

They won't be loaning him out again in a hurry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'Buy, or keep faith in someone like Kane?'. Print Edition | Subscribe