IIt was largely silenced last Sunday, but Harry Kane was not in Tottenham’s original lineup for the Premier League game against Crystal Palace. Then he took a late fitness test for an unspecified problem, felt he could get by and told José Mourinho.
Equipped with this information, Mourinho did what he almost always does, what Mauricio Pochettino did before him at Spurs and what Gareth Southgate also does whenever he can with England: he started Kane. The center forward would score two goals and two assists in the 4-1 victory.
Fast forward to Thursday night and another important game: the round of 16 of the Europa League, the first leg against Dinamo Zagreb. Kane started, scored two goals and was substituted in the 84th minute of what would end with a 2-0 win. When Kane sat in the dugout, a club doctor quickly placed possibly the largest ice pack ever seen on his right knee. Indicate the panic among the Spurs support, if only briefly. Kane would clear the ice before full time and Mourinho later said he would be fine for Sunday’s derby at Arsenal.
It wasn’t until late January that Kane injured both ankles against Liverpool, one worse than the other, and was forced to retire at half-time. A three-week absence was feared, but he returned after 10 days to score the first goal in West Bromwich Albion’s 2-0 loss. The Spurs lost the two games they missed against Brighton and Chelsea, each by a score of 1-0.
It’s obvious to say that Kane is central to the Spurs’ hopes. When he has been a substitute in the domestic cups this season, draws have been in the balance every time and Mourinho has always sent him. The coach also started him in two of the three Europa League qualifiers, which were knockout matches, and introduced him as a substitute in the other, in Shkendija, when he was 1-1.
The feeling in recent weeks is that Kane is beginning to feel the tension in his body and Mourinho’s management of his minutes has become a subject of forensic analysis. How do you do it from now on? During the Europa League group stage, he was able to use Kane primarily as a substitute or not use him at all, while managing to get through the two matches of the last 32 against Austrian minnow Wolfsberger without him.
But as the season enters its defining weeks, it doesn’t seem like there are many more games in which Mourinho would feel comfortable skipping Kane. Perhaps next Thursday’s second leg against Dinamo could be one. There are three at the end of the month that Mourinho would choose, although they are the qualifiers for the World Cup in England against San Marino, Albania and Poland. It’s doubtful that Southgate sees it the same way, and therefore expects a bit more back and forth between the pair.
What is clear is that Kane has had and will continue to have a decisive voice on how he feels and his willingness to play. The problem would come if his determination to get involved and the responsibility he takes on were to obscure common sense, and the impression has long been that Kane will always raise his hand for every minute; It will run and run until it falls. Mourinho insists the approach is collaborative, but the risks and nervousness are pronounced.
“Harry took a little hit the day before [the Palace game] … We had everyone embedded in the team, we don’t want to risk players, ”said Mourinho, when asked about Kane’s original absence last Sunday. “We wanted to give a 100% guarantee that playing would not affect the near future. We did just a little bit, if you want to call him a test or a little thing, just to make sure he was right for the game and he was.
“Was it Harry saying, ‘Play with me?’ Yes. Of course. Like everyone. With me, the players make these decisions. When a player is in doubt … I trust the player more than anything and the relationship we have between the coaching staff, the medical staff and the players is a very professional relationship. But the feelings of the players are very important ”.
A related point: poor Carlos Vinícius. It is unclear whether the forward needed to be retired by Palace, but he was surely disappointed to have played for just six minutes against Dinamo as a replacement for Kane, as he usually started in the Europa League when available. If Vinícius didn’t like the harsh reality of being Kane’s substitute when he signed on loan from Benfica last October, now he does.
Mourinho denied that Kane’s desire to play every minute was a problem, but then went off track on a significant tangent. “The hardest part… and that’s why I love Vinícius… is having a very good striker who doesn’t play many minutes and stays motivated, working hard, fit and ready to help the team. So my special words go to Vinícius because he is a very good player and an amazing guy in the group.
“When you have a forward like Harry, it doesn’t just affect the goals scored, but also the quality and dynamics of the team. We know you have important routines [link-ups] built with other players and it’s hard to leave it out. “
And so, the derby, a match in which Kane is the top scorer; he has 11 goals in 14 appearances. Vinícius will be ready. All eyes will be on Kane.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism