Those that simply caught the scoreline that read Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 Newcastle United, and saw that Harry Kane did not feature among the scorers may have assumed that the England captain had an off day in North London. That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
In the past, strikers were about one thing and one thing only. Goals. The likes of Gary Lineker and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made successful careers out of being a fox in the box, and a goal often defined whether they had contributed or not. So how is a striker with 178 Premier League goals, likely to break Alan Shearer’s record if he stays in the division, not only one of the best goalscorers we have ever seen, but also one of the best playmakers?
This weekend, in the second half, he seemingly decided at a flick of a switch to tear Eddie Howe’s side a new one. He dropped deep, got on the ball, and caused havoc amongst the Magpies' defence with an array of incisive passes. His link-up with the rampant Heung-min Son was sumptuous and although he only got one assist, he was the reason Spurs won the game.
We’ve seen this before from strikers, with varying levels of success. Francesco Totti, across his 25 year career at Roma, was one of the very first false nines, entrusted with being a creative force from the striker position. Given their wealth of talent in the attacking midfield area, Totti often found himself dropping deep to feed the quicker forwards, and due to this Roma became one of the first teams to popularise the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Fellow Englishman Wayne Rooney’s deployment as a midfielder was not quite as successful. As he lost his pace, he tried to run the show from a deeper position. Rooney had always tended to join in with midfielders at his peak, but his transition as an older player saw him spray Hollywood balls about with relatively little end product. Kane is the complete opposite, and is Spurs’ main creator on the ball.
Not only this, but he is also still able to get himself into goal scoring positions, even if his total of 12 so far this term is slightly behind the numbers we are used to him putting up on a regular basis. At Spurs, he is allowed to roam free, and do exactly what he likes, which brings the best out of both him and the team that are now well in the mix for the top four.
However, there still stands an elephant in the room that cannot be ignored. Kane’s future has been put to one side, but the transfer talk is only going to increase again as we approach the summer. Last year he was destined to join Manchester City but the move never materialised, and while Antonio Conte may have given Spurs the best chance of keeping him, Kane wants to compete for major honours.
But at Man City, who have lacked a central striker this season under Pep Guardiola, he is unlikely to be given the same freedom he has at Spurs. He’d be playing for one of the most fluid sides in the world, but yet, his one task would be to score key goals in big moments.
For his country, he can play a similar role as he does at Spurs, and it is as a creative figure that he seems happiest. Playing devil’s advocate, a move to Manchester may give him more goals and trophies, but it could also clip the wings of one of the finest footballers this country has ever produced.
The Tottenham forward has an important summer ahead of him. His desire to leave may not be as strong as it was twelve months ago if Conte can secure Champions League football, but the Premier League’s most potent player won’t be defined by what he wins or doesn’t win in club football. He’s likely to break Alan Shearer’s record as long as he stays in the division, but what happens this winter for Kane in Qatar could be legacy defining.