Tuesday 17 September 2019

Jamie Carragher: 'Spurs can afford to let Eriksen go, but need to keep Kane at all costs'

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Deadly duo: Harry Kane (right) celebrates a goal last season with Tottenham Hotspur team-mate midfielder Christian Eriksen
Deadly duo: Harry Kane (right) celebrates a goal last season with Tottenham Hotspur team-mate midfielder Christian Eriksen

Jamie Carragher

There are fears that the man who makes Tottenham Hotspur click will leave before the end of the transfer window. Spurs fans should not worry. Harry Kane is going nowhere this month.

For all the speculation surrounding Christian Eriksen, it is worth emphasising who the real star of the Tottenham team still is. Eriksen's contribution from the bench against Aston Villa was lauded last week, the Dane presented as the game-changer.

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But my abiding memory of that afternoon is of Kane's lethal finishing, two match-winning goals underlining what a world-class striker is.

This is the Kane we know. Back to his best.

Within 15 minutes he showed why you can guarantee he will again score more than 20 Premier League goals, injury-permitting.

Here is the truest measure of Kane's class: go through the respective line-ups of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City when they face up this weekend. Which Spurs player would be on Pep Guardiola's shopping list?

There is a reason he called Spurs "the Harry Kane" team. With Sergio Aguero now 31, Guardiola would love nothing more than to have the Tottenham striker as a natural replacement if the opportunity arose. I would be amazed if he is not the number-one choice.

If they had the cash, Real Madrid would have bid for Kane. Barcelona, too. He is that good. The La Liga elite will be watching him more than any other Premier League No 9.

As the plaudits were directed elsewhere following the comeback win over Villa, it seemed we had forgotten just how good Kane is.

Granted

This can happen when a player sets such a high standard, his brilliant moments are taken for granted.

Take a look at the quality of those finishes again - the power, accuracy and speed with which he gets his strikes away. When he gets a chance you never think he will miss.

It seems judgement has been clouded because there is a hangover from last season, when an untimely injury brought Kane's campaign to a mediocre end.

He was not fully fit in the Champions League final. Actually, he should not have played. That is not being wise after the event as many stated it beforehand - there was no way a player could be out for a couple of months and bring his A-game to a fixture of such stature.

After Tottenham overcame Ajax in the semi-final, I spoke to a Spurs scout and asked if Kane would be available for the final.

"He will make sure he is fit," was the reply.

This single-mindedness is one of Kane's strengths. He is cut from the same cloth as the last great English strikers - Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer - who felt their selfish pursuit of goals served the greater good of their clubs.

They would go into every campaign unashamedly targeting the golden boot, often giving the impression personal records were more important than team honours while arguing the more they scored, the more likely their clubs were to challenge for trophies.

That mentality can be seen in a more negative way, of course. In Kane's case, his declaring himself fit in Madrid caused a problem for Pochettino, as it gave him a selection dilemma others would not have presented him.

How could he not pick a fit Kane in the Champions League final?

He was compelled to roll the dice and it did not work. Similarly, Kane was a shadow of himself at the Nations League finals, unable to repeat the form that made him the World Cup golden boot winner.

But let's not forget Spurs' tame Champions League final performance was not solely due to Kane not being 100 per cent.

Eriksen was fully fit in Madrid and gave an equally disappointing display. There was not much evidence of him being Spurs' main man that night.

I do not write this to deride Eriksen, an excellent footballer who has shone in a Tottenham jersey. It is simply my belief that Kane is the one man in the squad Pochettino could not afford to lose in this window, or at any point in the last three years.

If Eriksen goes before the end of the month it will be a significant setback, but you will not see the major clubs pursuing him with the vigour they would Kane. Eriksen is not at Real or Barcelona's level.

Some players are a natural fit for a particular club, functioning so well because of how they are utilised by the manager, complementing those around him. My suspicion is Eriksen's effectiveness is as much a consequence of Pochettino's tactical excellence rather than a superstar quality.

You can understand why any player's head would be turned by interest from one of the major European clubs, but there are plenty of examples of those who found the perfect environment to flourish and sacrificed it to take that once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to the Nou Camp or Bernabeu, only to have regrets a year or two later. Eriksen might consider that if he has a decision to make.

His remarks in the immediate aftermath of the Champions League final - suggesting he is ready for a new challenge - were designed to invite offers which, perhaps, have not materialised as swiftly as anticipated.

That is a signal that clubs see Eriksen as an attractive option at a good price given his contract situation rather than one of those must-have accessories such as Gareth Bale, who was the subject of irresistible bids.

Cashed

It would still send out the wrong message if Tottenham cashed in on Eriksen now. He is not irreplaceable - Spurs signing Giovani Lo Celso on loan from Real Betis was a sign they think he might go - but you cannot help but look at their situation and feel they are at a crossroads.

Last year there was a ready-made excuse for the club not making an extra push in the transfer market because of the expensive new stadium.

Getting to the Champions League final was a brilliant achievement. Once there, few outside their club believed they would win. Why? Because they are Tottenham. They lost 20 of 60 games in all competitions last season.

This summer they have invested in the squad, but how many of the recruits did Manchester City or Liverpool want? They are the clubs Pochettino is measuring his squad against now.

I know Liverpool watched Ryan Sessegnon and saw another player for the future rather than someone who could go straight into the team at left-back. Pochettino is again working with a signing he is expected to develop over time rather than players who can make an immediate impact.

Time is running out for a team he has managed to get the most from. Kyle Walker and Mousa Dembele have gone. Danny Rose was open to offers before the Premier League transfer window closed. Eric Dier looks like he's being eased out. Eriksen may leave shortly. The core of the team that challenged Leicester City in 2016 is breaking up.

If Tottenham do not collect a trophy this year, the question will be asked about how much appetite Pochettino has to keep rebuilding. That is why I believe he has stated publicly they must win something now.

Nobody knows better than the manager that Kane is more fundamental to that ambition than any other player.

The day Eriksen leaves north London it will be end of a fine Tottenham career. The day Kane does so will be the end of an era.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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