© 2018 ipub.us
Had Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino used Lionel Messi's name in the same sentence as Harry Kane in 2015, the Argentinian's sanity would likely have been called into question.
Yet when Pochettino compared the Spurs striker to Barcelona's iconic leader prior to Saturday's 4-0 win over Bournemouth, there was no reason for anyone to bat an eyelid.
"In Barcelona, Messi was injured for a month but Barcelona were still winning, and then when Messi's available again, you don't say 'hmm, I don't know'," the former Southampton boss said, per Sky Sports. "Different names, I can't tell you. But there's no doubt Harry's one of the best players that we have."
The comparison is valid; not in terms of style, but certainly when it comes to substance.
Barcelona can prosper without their talisman, but there is no question they are a better team when Messi is fit and able to feature.
The same goes for Kane, someone once labelled a one-season wonder who, after finding the net on his comeback from an ankle injury at the weekend, has now managed 20 or more Premier League goals in three successive campaigns.
The scoring feat puts the England international in a select group of strikers, per OptaJoe on Twitter:
The final word on that tweet—elite—is telling. The Oxford English Dictionary definition reads: A select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.
The last Tottenham player to manage 20 or more goals for three straight years was Jimmy Greaves, according to the club's official website. That is, without a doubt, elite company to be in.
Spurs have emphatically shot down the notion they are a one-man band—or at least a solo strike force—by managing five wins and three draws in the eight Premier League fixtures they've been without Kane this season.
Still, on his return against Bournemouth, the White Hart Lane frontman showed why he's so pivotal.
His goal after the interval, a left-footed finish inside the penalty area, was well-taken, but that wasn't the eye-catching moment. That came in the first half with his assist for Heung-Min Son to make it 2-0, a one-touch, no-look flick that delivered the ball perfectly into the path of his team-mate's supporting run.
"The one- and two-touch football that he was playing was wonderful, and highlighted the huge difference between he and [Vincent] Janssen, and, frankly, most other forwards in the league," Chris Miller, a Spurs blogger who runs the WindyCOYS site, told Bleacher Report.
"Kane has such speed of thought these days that he's thinking about the pass that he will make before the ball has even come to him, and it allows Spurs to pour forward, safe in the knowledge that he will create a platform or play a clever pass into space.
"His pass for Son's goal in that game was demonstrative of his awareness and ability."
For the third season in a row, Kane is in the running to be crowned the PFA Player of the Year. He missed out in 2014/15 to Chelsea's Eden Hazard (the favourite again this year), although he picked up a welcome consolation prize when voted Young Player of the Year.
He's up for both awards again this season, showing how highly he's regarded by his peers. Worryingly for the rest of the league, he's still only 23. It's quite possible Kane's best is yet to come.
Like a beetroot stain on a white shirt, he seemed to appear all of a sudden in Spurs' first team and has been tough to shift since.
In his first full season (2014/15), the England international scored 31 times in 51 games. When the following campaign got off to a slow start, the skeptics pointed to a flash in the pan quickly burning out. They were right to some extent—he finished the 2015/16 campaign with only 28 goals to his name.
His tally for this season stands at an impressive 25 goals in 31 appearances in all competitions. Yet despite such a prolific strike rate, it still feels like some are yet to be totally convinced by Kane's qualities.
"I think some of that has to do with the performance of the England team in general last summer," Miller said.
"Kane was not at his best, that's for sure, but I don't think any of England’s players were. Perhaps other fans saw the hype from Spurs fans—and I'm very guilty of hyping him myself, such is my love of him—and set expectations which were then not met.
"That summer came at the end of a prolonged period of constant matches for Kane personally, and at the end of a physically and mentally gruelling season for Spurs.
"But honestly, if you can watch Spurs and not see what Kane brings aside from goals, then you likely have some form of agenda or bias, because he’s talismanic, influential and integral."
Tottenham fans adore Kane. He's one of their own, in case you haven't heard.
The north London club have been blessed with great forwards down the years, too. In the Premier League era alone, they've had (in alphabetical order): Dimitar Berbatov, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Jurgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham.
However Miller—who has watched Kane develop through the youth system—believes Spurs' current leading man may already be the pick of the bunch.
"This might not be a particularly popular opinion—and might set me up for a fall—but I think he's probably the best all-round striker of all of them, with Berbatov and Sheringham probably pushing him closest," he said.
"But they both arrived at Spurs in their mid-20s, when strikers tend to peak. Both were incredibly smart players with immense vision, and both scored a high numbers of goals, some of which were extraordinary.
"Kane has the edge for me, though, and I think he'll go on to be an all-time great if he isn't already."
For Kane and Spurs, the sky is the limit. A new stadium is on the way, and in Pochettino they have an ambitious coach who is the Pied Piper of the Premier League. When he calls the tune, players tend to follow. The biggest issue for chairman Daniel Levy will be keeping hold of all his prized assets.
Yet the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Tottenham's future is brighter than Kane's pearly whites, so you have to wonder; why would anyone want to go somewhere else?
"I would be surprised if any of my team-mates were to leave now," Kane told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Matt Law of the Telegraph) in January. "Something's going on here, we're just missing that last step—to win trophies. It would be stupid to leave now."
Luis Suarez was the last out-and-out centre-forward to win the PFA's top honour, in 2014. The Uruguayan scored 69 league goals in 110 games at Liverpool before Barcelona came calling.
Kane, by the way, has exactly the same record after his goal against Bournemouth. Were it not for injuries this season, he'd have surely surpassed Suarez's impressive tally already.
"This season has not been so much of a step up for him as perhaps last year was, but he has consolidated and, because the team is generally improving as time goes on, it is certainly allowing him to showcase his all-round ability," Miller said of Spurs' No. 10.
Compared to the other forwards in contention for the PFA gong, Kane perhaps lacks a standout quality. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku are a greater physical presence, while Eden Hazard possesses more quality in possession. Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, is blessed with speed and a super-charged engine.
What does Kane do? Well, he scores goals. Headers, penalties, long-range rockets and two-yard tap-ins. He scores them all.
He may not have obvious physical traits or be full of tricks, but this isn't about who'd you choose to use on a games console. Kane is a well-rounded attacker who fits the bill perfectly for Spurs.
Forget those set-piece struggles for England (corners, Roy? You put your best forward on corners? Good grief), and don't linger too long on those awful handshakes he indulges in with other Tottenham players either.
But while he'll forever be loved at the Lane (provided he never disappears to Barcelona or Real Madrid), Tottenham's totemic striker deserves greater recognition outside of N17.
Rob Lancaster is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All statistics used in the article are from TransferMarkt unless otherwise stated.