Wembley on Saturday afternoon. Emotion and unadulterated joy overflowed on the pitch as Leicester City won their first ever FA Cup against the odds. The players, and goalscorer Youri Tielemans in particular, now have their names etched into the grand old history of that club and, no matter what happens across their careers, they will always have that moment. They are now immortal.
Now think of Harry Kane in that same context. His devotion to Tottenham Hotspur has been unquestionable, having been at the club since 2009 and made 240 appearances for the Lilywhites. But it appears that he has finally run out of patience, reportedly telling the club of his desire to leave. Could he live to regret that decision if he does walk out the exit door this summer?
His credentials speak for themselves. The England captain is the highest scorer in Premier League history not to have won the title, with 165 goals in 243 games to date. He deserves to play in a better side than Spurs currently are and compete for the top honours, but when it comes down to it, what would a Premier League trophy at either of the two Manchester clubs really mean to him?
He has no affinity to them, while their fans, although long-term admirers, have no love for the England man. Given Manchester City’s recent dominance in English football, Kane wouldn’t be ‘remembered’ by their fans if they were to win a fourth Premier League title in five years with him in the side. All their success blurs into one these days. Beyond 2012, you’d do well to mark out one title triumph from another.
But winning something at Spurs, now that would be truly special. The celebrations we saw from Leicester at the weekend would be the same for Kane and Spurs if they were to win the FA Cup. Playing for Man City or United, it just wouldn’t feel the same. It’s the rarity of some successes which makes them all the more memorable.
Alan Shearer is one of the very best examples. The Premier League’s greatest ever goalscorer joined hometown club Newcastle United instead of Manchester United in 1996. The north-east club were challenging for the title at that time but slowly regressed, yet Shearer got to spend a decade at the club he adored. He overtook Jackie Milburn to become the club’s record goalscorer, he was able to set up a foundation which helps disabled adults and children and now he has a statue outside St James’ Park.
The fans still sing his name to this day and he is forever immortalised in the history of Newcastle United. Had he joined Man Utd, he’d have won six more Premier League titles during that time, but he doesn’t regret that move for a single moment. The only difference between Kane and Shearer is that the latter had already won the Premier League with Blackburn and Kane has no trophies to date.
Steven Gerrard was in a similar situation when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea came calling. He even handed in a transfer request and told Liverpool of his desire to leave. Yet talks with his family helped him get his priorities in order and he performed a sharp U-turn to remain at the club for the rest of his career.
Even Mourinho, having tried to sign him for three separate clubs, was pleased with his decision on reflection. “I’m very happy that he didn’t join,” the Portuguese boss said in 2015. “Because in the end I think it was an amazing career and [he had] an amazing feeling with his people, that he refused to play for other big clubs, he refused to play in other big leagues to play only for Liverpool. And I think this is a feeling that stays forever.”
He never won the Premier League, but in the grand scheme of things does that really matter? What he did over his career at Anfield overtakes any Premier League title he would have almost inevitably won for Chelsea. Gerrard is Liverpool, Shearer is Newcastle and Kane… well, he is Tottenham.
If Kane stays at the club and goes on to break Shearer’s Premier League record, or even Jimmy Greaves’ Tottenham goalscoring mark, he will be remembered as one of the greatest to have ever played for Spurs. His statue will surely be built outside the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and he will forever be heralded as a club legend.
Football, even in 2021, isn’t all about winning trophies. Kane is England captain, at his peak and attempting to make sure he doesn’t retire with any regrets. With or without a Premier League title he will be remembered as one of the greats, but, like Gerrard, perhaps his biggest regret would be turning his back on the club that adores him.