Harry Kane has done the inevitable. The Tottenham Hotspur striker has claimed the outright England goalscoring record after netting his 54th Three Lions strike. His historic goal came in England’s gritty 2-1 victory over Italy in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Thursday night. Kane’s spot kick sees him overtake previous record-holder Wayne Rooney to claim the crown.
It does not seem long since Rooney claimed the record for himself. The former Manchester United forward netted his 50th international goal against Switzerland in 2015, usurping Bobby Charlton to reign supreme. Charlton’s record had stood since his international career ended in 1970. Rooney’s record fell just short of nine years. The fact Kane needed just 81 games to do what it took the iconic Red Devils duo over 100 each to accomplish is truly remarkable.
Kane’s international debut arrived in the same year as Rooney’s record-breaking exploits. While it is rare to take one look at a striker and label them a future record breaker, Kane breaking the record at least felt feasible. The fact he has done it so quickly is stunning, a testament to his abilities. But at least as a player who netted 21 goals in 34 games that Premier League season at the age of 21, such exploits were possible.
Kane’s own record feels like it will stand a lot longer than Rooney’s. For a start, there is no youthful pretender nipping at Kane’s heels like the Spurs man was doing to Rooney at the time of his debut. Kane’s two closest scoring equivalents in the current squad are Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.
Sterling has 20 goals to his name and, at the age of 28 and playing in wide areas, there is little to no way he adds 34 more to that total. Rashford is enjoying a stunning resurgence and has 27 United goals to his name this term. But his 15 England strikes have mainly come from wide positions and he is also not a guaranteed starter in Gareth Southgate’s side.
There is also the smaller matter of Kane himself. At the age of 29 he still has plenty of miles left on the clock, injury and loss of form notwithstanding. It is hard to envisage this being a case of 54 and out for the Spurs talisman. England do have other quality forwards available to them, such as Ivan Toney or Tammy Abraham, though the latter is not in the current squad. But Southgate favours Kane and the striker’s world class displays make it easy to see why.
We could be talking about Kane for a good while when it relates to this record. While he may stop short of a Charlton-like tenure spanning five decades, the England captain will probably be at the top of the heap for the foreseeable future. This could become important the longer Kane stays at Tottenham.
While there has been numerous times where it has looked like he would move on, every passing year makes it more likely Kane will retire at Spurs. As synonymous with the North London club as Steven Gerrard was with Liverpool or Alan Shearer was with Newcastle United; despite the occasional wobble of unrest, Kane always comes home.
But Spurs are a hive of dysfunction at the moment. Antonio Conte’s public implosion, via a venomous press conference in which he decided that if he was going down he was taking his squad with him, has left the club on the precipice. Back-to-back-to-back failures under Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and now Conte have eroded the fine work Mauricio Pochettino did during his tenure. The fact Kane has continued scoring in this environment is remarkable. But the fact he chooses to remain within it means we could judge him largely on his records when the time comes.
This season, Kane overtook Spurs icon Jimmy Greaves to claim the club scoring record. Now he has secured a national team milestone that looks unlikely to be bettered. Tottenham look less likely than ever to furnish Kane with the trophies he so richly deserves. Knowing the astronomical price Daniel Levy and Spurs would ask to secure Kane and, given his age, the idea of him staying looks increasingly likely. With a bare shelf when it comes to team awards, it looks like Kane’s career will be defined by his individual achievements.
When those achievements are as glittering as Kane’s, that’s no bad thing. While he will hope that there is team silverware in his future, for club or country, it is not a prerequisite when considering his legacy. Harry Kane is a truly special footballer no matter what happens from here. He now has the records to prove it.
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