Harry Kane’s age and loyalty to Tottenham means he may never win the trophies he deserves

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One of England’s greatest-ever goalscorers is yet to win a single trophy and penalty heartbreak against France means time is running out

December 11, 2022 1:49 pm(Updated 5:58 pm)

The mixed zone is a curious, sometimes chaotic place. They are the secret areas erected with ropes and barriers and magic in the deepest bowels of stadiums. Where players can walk by after matches while journalists ask if they will stop, even for a couple of minutes, to share their thoughts.

Elbows fly, tempers are lost, strangers press their bodies against you in ways that would be extremely frowned upon and unaccepted in any other place and any other area of society. And no more so than after the big matches, when the biggest players turn up.

When Harry Kane meandered through the twisting temporary corridors beneath Al Bayt Stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning there was a mad rush to speak with the England captain who had missed that penalty which would have equalised against France late in a World Cup quarter-final they subsequently lost.

Straining, outstretched arms, dictaphones, smartphones, selfie sticks thrust as close to Kane as possible. Such a crush at the start that the barrier separating Kane from the thronging masses almost keeled over.

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Sometimes you can forget how much of a megastar Harry Kane is. Maybe because he’s never played for a club in that very upper echelon of the game. Sure, Spurs have competed in the Champions League and challenged for the odd trophy – and that is in large part down to Kane – but they aren’t quite a Manchester City or Liverpool, a Real Madrid or Barcelona, a Bayern Munich, a Juventus.

Maybe it’s that endearingly unassuming air about him, so rare for a player of his stature, in an industry of egos and alphas. You get the impression that had Kane not made it as a professional footballer he would have been equally as happy with his lot in life as a sales assistant at B&Q advising customers, in the politest manner, on the best wood preserver to treat their deck, or which aisle the paint rollers are kept.

There’s been much talk of the game’s latest ageing legends departing the World Cup for, possibly, the last time, leaving Doha without a trophy they will likely never now hold. Neymar leaving with Brazil on Friday. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on Saturday. Lionel Messi clings to hope, with a semi-final against Croatia on Tuesday.

Yet not so much has been talked about Kane as one of the game’s greats stepping into the twilight, even though one more goal for England will make him his country’s outright greatest goalscorer. Even though he still has a chance of catching Alan Shearer’s outrageous Premier League all-time scoring record. Even though time is running out for Kane, too. To lift any trophy.

Ronaldo and Messi are, of course, a few years older, but Neymar is only 30, and is already considering whether to retire from Brazil. And where those stars have gorged themselves on football’s riches at their clubs, where they have lifted league titles and drunk from domestic cups and Champions League trophies, and can reflect on a career richly fulfilled, Kane cannot do the same.

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He has two EFL Cup runners-up medals. One Champions League runners-up medals. He has a Euro 2020 runners-up medal. He has a 2018-19 Nations League third place medal. It’s a barren shelf in his trophy cabinet, in stark contrast to his personal honours of a 2018 World Cup Golden Boot and three shiny Premier League ones to go with it.

Kane will be 30 years old in July. And barring injury he will still lead England into Euro 2024 in Germany, will still have one more shot at glory with the national team. But the 2026 World Cup? That feels a stretch too far, even for a player of his health and fitness.

Being a striker takes a toll on the body. Alan Shearer, perhaps the most similar player to Kane in the way he followed his heart rather than voraciously chased silverware, was 30 when he retired from international football. Wayne Rooney was 31.

Sure, Kane can drop deeper – as he often does so effectively now and as once Rooney did – but while the rest of this England squad is packed with the energy of youth, England need to start devising a succession plan for Kane, with no obvious heir-apparent of quite that calibre on the horizon.

In the early hours of Sunday, Hugo Lloris stormed through the Al Bayt Stadium mixed zone and said something angrily to journalists asking for him to stop. Presumably because he had been asked in the pre-match press conference what he felt about being considered France’s weak link. Some England players, such as John Stones and Jordan Pickford, tried to slip through unnoticed, with hoods up. But Kane, who could so easily have swerved the scrum after the way his night ended, faced up to the questions.

He is open and honest and brave to the core. It’s why fans love him and journalists love him, why managers love him and team-mates love him. Why it’s such a shame his goals and drive and ambition have been unable to deliver him more glory.

England may not have him for much longer, but he will be sorely missed when he’s gone.

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