The Fourth Best Player in the World?

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If there is a punditry meme more annoyingly popular than “How can Levy keep this squad together?” or its corollary “Levy cannot possibly keep this squad together” it is all the obstacles placed in front of what the so-called experts believe Harry Kane is not now, will never be, or will not become as a Spur. “One hit wonder”; “He has to do it in Europe”; “He’s not world class”; “He can only become world class at a truly big club”, and on and on and on.

So let’s just toss all that rubbish into the nearest bin, and deal with the reality on display tonight in Cyprus. Harry Kane is a wonderful footballer. Harry Kane is a ruthlessly efficient goal scorer. Harry Kane is an indefatigable worker. Harry Kane is the heart and soul of the best Spurs side in at least a half-century. And… now wait for it, Phil Neville, Frank Lampard and dozens of British pundits paid to put the Kanes of the world in their proper place—which is either irrelevance on Spurs or possible greatness, but only wearing a different shirt… Harry Kane may very well be the fourth best player in the world. And he ain’t going anywhere anytime soon, if ever.

What he did tonight simply cannot be replicated by all but a handful of strikers in the world—and even then more sporadically than he is doing it; and what he is doing over the past three plus years, and particularly the past year, is score goals at a rate only exceeded by the Dynamic Duo, the veritable Gods of  21st Century football, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi. If we grant Neymar status as the third wheel—hardly an absolute but let’s stipulate it—who then is the next best? Surely Premier League strikers such as Lukaku and Aguero can’t compare—Kane routinely outperforms them on the same stage. A year or two back, Robert Lewandowski could easily have staked a claim, or even Edinson Cavani—or Zlatan Ibrahimovich—but those players are either past their prime or simply not matching Kane’s brilliance. A year or two earlier it might have been Andres Iniesta. Some once thought it could be Paul Pogba. Others would choose Thomas Muller, or even his teammate Manuel Neuer. Antoine Griezmann is close; and at his best, which has been a sometime thing the past few years, Eden Hazard is, too. Luis Suarez may be the closest competitor but Kane is more than six years younger and I suspect Suarez will soon begin to slip from his peak, if he hasn’t already.

I simply do not believe that any of them—right now—are the equal of Kane. The name of the game is scoring or preventing goals. He does the former better than any player outside of the Two in the rest of the world. And last I checked, Cyprus is in Europe. Dortmund are a fine European side. Can’t you wait to see how he will do against the Galacticos? And oh by the way, there might have been a time—say in 2012-13—when another Tottenham Hotspur player could be judged to be at such a height. But not any more. And this one—one of our own—is simply not going to be on a jet—red taillights heading to Spain—except when Spurs travel there in what we hope may become an annual journey. Not next year, not the year after—and if chasing down Alan Shearer and helping win more glory for this football club than any of us can remember or could have dreamed of when Roberto Soldado prowled the pitch has anything to with it, not for several years after that. We’re the big club now.

As for the game, kudos to Kieran Tripper, Moussa Sissoko and Toby Alderweireld for delivering balls to Kane to be perfectly converted into a hat trick. The shape was strange and ineffectual for much of the first half—with so much of the spine missing and Tripper forced to play on his off wing and Serge Aurier running out of steam by early in the second half, this game could have gone south. No Eriksen, no Dele and basically no Son either despite his supposed presence on the pitch. But Toby’s brilliant ball turned into Kane One; Moussa’s excellent pass back became Kane Two, and Trippier’s perfectly weighted cross (from his correct flank) ended on Harry’s forehead for Kane Three. Winks was solid if unimaginative; Sanchez (Tank Junior as I am beginning to think of him. When both he and Wanyama take the pitch, pity the side that attempts to break Spurs down through the middle) was resolute and is settling into his role a bit more every day. And Sissoko was the second best player on the pitch. (Son might have been the second worst but I can’t think of who was worse, and certainly not in white) We’ll forgive Hugo’s latest adventure in hopes that they will soon cease.  Real Madrid’s win in Germany places us alongside the best team in the world in this group—now we can lick our lips about the prospect of facing them twice in the next five weeks, and Man United and Liverpool as well.

Where would we be without our talisman? One of our Own? Let’s hope it is many years before we attempt to find out.   

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.

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