Daily Mail


- By IAN LADYMAN Football Editor in Qatar

WHEN ALAN Shearer was nearing the end of his playing days, the Guardian looked back at his career and described it as a ‘wreckage’. The insinuatio­n was that one of the greatest goalscorer­s of our times had given so much but was to end with so little, just one Premier League medal from his years at Blackburn.

It can be a hard dilemma to juggle, one that sets the love and sense of belonging that players feel at a club — in Shearer’s case Newcastle — against the cold hard currency of silverware. Some, like Ryan Giggs and Frank Lampard, managed to tick both boxes but they are the lucky ones. Some must keep moving to satisfy the hunger. Others, like Shearer, do not and subsequent­ly retire in the knowledge that at least one side of the ledger will always be empty. And so to Harry Kane. The 29-yearold Tottenham and England striker flew to Qatar yesterday as one of football’s true elite performers but did so in an almost unique position of never having won a single thing. Unlike Neymar of Brazil (six league titles), Lionel Messi of Argentina (11), Robert Lewandowsk­i of Poland (10), Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal (seven) and Karim Benzema of France (eight), Kane has no silverware to show for a career that will soon be in its autumn years.

Watching him play for Tottenham recently in a game they lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool was to be reminded of the absurdity of that, and if he views the next four weeks as an opportunit­y to achieve something special not only for his country but also for himself, it would be totally understand­able. Kane was exceptiona­l that day against Liverpool, as he so often is. The goal he scored to spark a Tottenham comeback came from a chance that probably had the Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson at an advantage, such was the angle. Kane had about a single square foot of netting to aim for inside the far post but found it with a sweep of his right foot. The rest of his play was almost perfect, too. Kane is a beautiful passer of the ball, he can cross the ball, is a terrific header and does not want for courage or energy. Anything else? Oh yes, he never stops trying either.

If England are to achieve anything at all at this World Cup then Gareth Southgate will require his captain to be somewhere near his most efficient. The sheer and relentless number of minutes he has played already for Tottenham this season will be a concern. Kane has started every single one of his club’s 22 games in all competitio­ns this season and has been substitute­d only four times with two of those changes being made with just a minute left. In all he has played an astonishin­g 1,935 of a possible 1,980 minutes.

It has always been this way with Kane, though, and he usually delivers neverthele­ss. The Golden Boot winner at the last World Cup with six goals, Kane also scored four in last year’s European Championsh­ip. It says as much about him as it does England’s other options at centre forward that he is about as irreplacea­ble as they come.

Yet, had things been handled differentl­y a proposed move to Manchester City in the summer of 2021 may have materialis­ed and the phenomenon that is Erling Haaland may still be playing his football in Germany.

While Kane may be marginally underrated from a global point of view, he isn’t at Tottenham who continue to insist they would never have sold him. Chairman Daniel Levy and his board are still regretful about letting another of their players, Kyle Walker, move to the Etihad Stadium in 2017. Equally, Kane and his brother who represents him did not play a particular­ly smart game last summer. As a result Kane remains contracted at Tottenham until the summer of 2024.

Kane is not 30 until next June and he may yet have three or four seasons left at the top level. That will depend on how well his body holds up as much as anything else. It is feasible, therefore, that he may have a final season or two somewhere else. But, if a final last-gasp tilt for trophies is to happen at another English club, then Kane will have to run down his contract and leave in 18 months’ time for nothing. Levy will not contemplat­e a sale.

Kane classes himself as ambitious. Over the last two decades or so, there have been few better in the Premier League. As good as Shearer? He is currently 66 goals behind him so that race is going to be a tight one. Regardless, Qatar represents opportunit­y for Kane. Having already been in the vanguard of a renaissanc­e period for England’s national team, he can bolster his tournament numbers further in a group comprising Iran, the United States and Wales.

All in all, his part in what Southgate has achieved in bonding our football team with its public has been fundamenta­l. Whether he one day walks away with anything tangible to show for it remains to be seen.

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