Manchester City pushed hard to sign Harry Kane last year. Following the departure of Sergio Agüero to Barcelona, City wanted a new striker to fill the void in their frontline. Tottenham, though, did not budge in their demand that City pay £150m for the England captain. Kane wanted to go, but City did not up their offer and he remained at Spurs. The lack of a natural striker did not hold back City, who retained their Premier League title last season while scoring more goals (99) than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues.
So, of course City went out and signed goal machine Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund this summer. The Norwegian has wasted no time in acclimatising to the demands of Premier League football. In nine appearances, Haaland has scored 15 league goals – more than Manchester United, Chelsea and 11 other teams in the Premier League. Since the start of last season, only Kevin De Bruyne (16) has scored more league goals for City.
City’s failure to sign Kane was a sliding doors moment for both strikers. Fast forward a year and the Spurs forward is now chasing Haaland in the race for the golden boot. There has been plenty of focus on the 22-year-old and deservedly so given his incredible start to the season, yet his goals have meant Kane’s own performances this season have gone under the radar.
His first-half strike in Tottenham’s 1-0 win at Brighton on Saturday evening was his eighth goal in nine league games this season. Kane has scored in his last four league games – the joint-longest scoring streak of his career in the Premier League. His goal against Brighton was his 191st in the Premier League. He has overtaken Agüero (184) and Andy Cole (187) this season in the all-time list of top Premier League goalscorers, and now has just Wayne Rooney (208) and Alan Shearer (260) left to conquer.
What’s all the more commendable is that Kane has scored eight goals this season despite not really hitting the heights of previous campaigns. In recent years Spurs have tended to start slowly before building momentum around November in time for the gruelling festive period. The fact that Spurs are third in the table having not really played well, bar certain periods in comfortable wins over Southampton and Leicester, speaks volumes of the winning mentality instilled by Antonio Conte. To be four points off top spot despite not hitting their full potential shows their newfound resolve.
This is perhaps epitomised best by Kane’s goal record at this stage of the campaign. He hasn’t been as poor as Son Heung-min, but even Kane has not been at his best in the opening weeks of the season – yet he is Haaland’s closest competitor for the golden boot. City are playing sensational football and Haaland is scoring by the bucketload – if he continues at his current rate, the Norwegian will break Dixie Dean’s all-time record of 60 goals in a single top-flight season – but Kane’s numbers are still impressive. He is scoring a goal every 100 minutes this season while playing in a Spurs side that looks like it is stuck in second gear.
His winner at the weekend was a case in point. Conte’s side had to dig in against Brighton to secure all three points and become the first away side to win at the Amex since … Spurs won at the Amex in March. Kane’s instinctive finish was enough to separate the two sides. The versatility of his finishing means that, even when Spurs are playing poorly, Kane can still conjure up a moment of magic that makes the difference between one point and three. Kane has only been presented with nine clearcut chances this season and he has scored seven of them. Given his previous slow starts and the timing of the World Cup this year, Gareth Southgate must be delighted.
Kane’s goalscoring is so consistent that it has become normal and even gone under the radar. He has scored at least 15 goals in each of his last eight league campaigns, and he is more than halfway to reaching that milestone again this season. With the spotlight now firmly on Haaland, Kane is quietly sneaking up the goalscoring charts. Whether playing up front alone or with a partner – as he did against Brighton in a 3-5-2 – Kane guarantees goals, and with the pressure currently off, chances are he will remain Haaland’s closest threat to the golden boot.