Harry Kane spurred on by wish to emulate Messi and Ronaldo
Spurs talisman looking to top up his tally against Cypriot champions
To Harry Kane it is a numbers game and, like every football fan in Europe, the Tottenham Hotspur striker is in awe of those posted by two players in particular. You know who they are. There was a time when a goalscorer would be feted for getting 20 in a league season; for reaching a ratio of one in every two matches. That was in the era before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The big two have redefined the concept of productivity. What they have done and are doing is, quite simply, freakish. Messi, for example, has scored 96 goals in 116 Champions League games; Ronaldo 107 in 141. And what about their records in La Liga? Since Ronaldo joined Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009, he has scored 285 goals in 267 matches. In the corresponding period Messi has 304 goals in 279 games for Barcelona.
Kane has made no secret of his desire to be the best in the world, to win the Ballon d’Or, and an exciting thing has started to happen. His numbers have entered the same stratosphere as those of Messi and Ronaldo. He has a long way to go but, in the statistics that feature across social media, Kane is beginning to draw comparisons. He knows it because, as he admits, he cannot avoid things on Twitter. And it is driving him; fuelling the hunger still further.
Since Kane broke through at Tottenham in 2014-15, he has scored 79 league goals in 108 matches, picking up two Golden Boot awards in the process. Across those same three league seasons, Messi has 115 in 111; Ronaldo 108 in 102. Kane has a better shots-to-goals ratio than Ronaldo during the period and it is only slightly inferior to that of Messi.
Narrow the parameters to the calendar year of 2017 and Kane looks even better. The 24-year-old has 25 league goals in 23 games to Messi’s 34 in 27 and Ronaldo’s 15 in 20. Kane has a better shots-to-goals ratio than both of them. As an aside, when Ronaldo was a United player, from the age of 18-24, he scored 84 league goals in 196 matches. Kane’s career record in the Premier League shows 82 from 119.
“With social media these days, it’s difficult to stay away from the stats,” Kane said. “Everyone is tweeting this thing or that thing, and you see it. I want to be one of the best players in the world, so when people put stuff up and I see I am close to those players [Messi and Ronaldo], it is a great incentive to get even closer and go to the next step. I use it, yes. Staying consistent at the top level is what it’s all about.”
Kane is in the throes of his second Champions League campaign and he will lead the line against Apoel -Nicosia in Cyprus tonight. Mauricio Pochettino will be without the suspended Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli, while Mousa Dembélé (foot) and Christian Eriksen (illness) have not travelled. Danny Rose, Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela are also out.
Pochettino, though, says that his squad has the depth to cope and he knows how vital it will be to follow the 3-1 home victory against Borussia Dortmund from the opening round of Group H ties with another three points. Kane scored twice in that game and it brought his overall Champions League tally to four in four appearances – not bad for his start to life at this level.
Kane is fast achieving superstar status, and one marker of it is how much he is talked about. After he had scored twice in the 3-2 win at West Ham United on Saturday, Mark Noble described him as being “easily worth £100 million-plus”.
The West Ham captain added: “If he keeps on playing like he is, Tottenham are going to have to be strong to keep him.”
Ben Davies was the designated Tottenham player for the pre-Apoel media activity and, obviously, he was asked about Kane. “None of us can do an interview at the moment without being asked about Harry,” the left-back said with a smile. “But we don’t know what else to say. He is just incredible. He needs just one chance or even just one half-chance to produce a bit of magic and score.”
Alan Shearer’s record
Kane believes he is in “probably the best shape” of his career and his professionalism is such that it does not sound ridiculous to suggest he might have one eye on Alan Shearer’s all-time Premier League scoring record of 260 goals.
“I’m getting more mature and filling out with my body,” Kane said. “I feel stronger, holding off defenders maybe better than I was before. I’m eating well, recovering well. A football career is short. You have got to make the most of every day and that’s what I am trying to do.”
Apoel, the Cypriot champions, have proved a tough nut to crack at their home ground in recent times. They have won nine of their last 11 European ties there, losing only one, to Anderlecht in the last 16 of the Europa League last season, and they have conceded just five goals during the sequence. The scalps they have taken include Olympiakos and Athletic Bilbao. The atmosphere tonight promises to be hostile.
However, Tottenham have been excellent away from home this season; they have a 100 per cent record and have thrived when their opponents have brought the game to them. Moreover, Spurs have learned a few lessons from their failed Champions League campaign of last season.
“The main thing is that you cannot play the same way against every opponent,” Davies said. “We can’t always go gung ho against sides like maybe we do in the Premier League. Sometimes, you have to be able to soak up pressure and hit teams on the break. We were a lot more solid and patient against Dortmund and it worked. It was different to how we went into games last season.”