Saturday 14 December 2019

Hacienda in Madrid hills is bound to turn head of Tottenham's hottest property

Kane: Hot property
Kane: Hot property

James Lawton

Some assumed too quickly that the dream of Harry Kane, built with such splendid and relentless application over the last few years, would be bounded by his roots, his Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a silly idea, when you think about it, but there was touching, supporting evidence.

Might he not have come out of some yellowing old football magazine? Wasn't that his style, permanently, improbably cast in a world of millionaire foreign mercenaries?

Whatever he did, however perfectly refined his scoring certainties, were not the white shirts of Spurs and England destined to be always on the shoulders of the boy from down the road in Walthamstow?

But then maybe such an assessment should have been brushed by a little more reality, as in Real Madrid and the dawning possibility they will make him the hottest item in the summer soccer sales.

Perhaps we should have guessed that Kane, when we got right down to it, was a working professional footballer of 2018 rather than some guileless remnant of that age when even the greatest players didn't own their careers and often not even a car.

So many questions spill out of the huge speculation launched in Spain over Real's hopes of replacing their misfiring Frenchman Karim Benzema with the Hammer of the Spurs. And the belief that among those receptive to the idea is Kane himself.

Will Tottenham truly defy the idea that they are an ultimate selling club and turn down an amount projected at around £100m (€114m) in excess of that which took Kane's former club-mate Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu for £85m (€100m).

And if they don't - and the instinct has to be strong that ultimately they will not - will anyone ever again attach the phrase 'Glory Game' to the Spurs, as a best-selling book once did?

Will Kane's superb coach Mauricio Pochettino - a vital figure in the 24-year-old's remarkable development and widely seen as the future boss of one of Europe's mega clubs - be finally convinced that his current role is not so much the builder of a great team but the polisher of potentially brilliant investment.

Of course, the sorcerer and his apprentice - Kane is generous about Pochettino's role in his 2017 scoring blitzkrieg which surpassed Lionel Messi - might finish up in Madrid as an extremely expensive job lot.

If it should happen there would be two obvious casualties. One would be that old, increasingly quaint notion that football still has a place for the loyalties of a player's blood and life experience rather than the bank account.

Another would be Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy's oft-uttered claim that his board's over-riding concern is the glory rather than the profit of the football club.

There is another, though admittedly remote, possibility. It is that Kane might come to suffer the doubts about prospering in a new environment once experienced by arguably the greatest scorer to ever wear the Tottenham shirt.

That was Jimmy Greaves, tentatively sipping a beer in a London bar on a spring night in 1961 while waiting to hear if his move from Chelsea had gone through. It did.

He was 21 and extraordinary riches had fallen to Kane's East End forerunner. He had a three-year contract paying £140 a week, a £15,000 signing-on bonus, and Milan were paying Chelsea the earth - or so it seemed at £80,000.

Greaves should have been exuberant but one witness, the bar owner and the late Manchester City coach Malcolm Allison carried a vivid memory of a more complicated reaction to unfolding events by the young scorer.

Allison recalled, "Jimmy had been utterly brilliant at Chelsea and Italy was a wonderful opportunity but he was an East End lad and you could see he had his doubts about how things would work out.

"I was thrilled for him and he was excited but we all learned quickly enough how it was going to turn out."

Greaves was back in London by Christmas, signed by Spurs for £99,999 - a figure designed to take away from him the pressure of becoming English football's first £100,000 player.

His Italian adventure was a nightmare. He didn't get on with Italy - or his Milan coach - and he trailed home to England a failure, despite scoring nine goals in just 12 games in Italian football. Some failure.

Kane, in whoever's shirt he wears, and however phenomenal his current touch in front of goal, will have to achieve wonders of consistency to exceed a more deadly career ratio of games and goals.

When he was 17 Greaves was "rested" for six weeks by his Chelsea manager Ted Drake for fear that a rush of publicity would turn his head.

He came back six weeks later with four goals against Portsmouth on Christmas Day.

He scored 124 league goals for Chelsea in 157 games, 220 for Spurs in 321 games and 44 for England in 57 games. Kane's record is, of course, rather more than handy: 99 for Spurs in 136 games, 12 for England in 23.

It's a smaller world now, no doubt, and who can say that before the year is out Kane will not be striding down Madrid's Gran Via with the same assurance shown by his fellow East Ender Burlington Bertie marching along The Strand.

He is certainly a more expansive character than the superb Welsh striker Ian Rush, whose year with Juventus was so unhappy he was said, erroneously, to have described it as like "living in a foreign country".

In fact, the Welshman was not so much a cultural victim as an old-style player discovering the new world of football. When I visited him in Turin he confessed his shock that when, after his first game, he asked directions to the players' bar and was told there was no such place in the Juve ground.

"I was told all my team-mates had already driven off to their mansions in the hills," said the glum Rush as he pecked at his pasta.

Maybe, 30 years on, it isn't so strange that Harry Kane of Walthamstow isn't too fazed by the idea of his own hacienda in the hills.

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