To understand how much is on the line for Harry Kane this summer, it is worth laying everything out. He will captain England in what is in effect a home tournament and the prospect of lifting the weight imposed by five and a half decades of history is one that sets his eyes aglow. Kane believes he is at the height of his powers: he has never felt this good about his game so this would be the period, performing on those golden July evenings to a country that has rarely been more thirsty for a flush of euphoria, when a career’s loftiest ambitions bear fruit.
Some of them, anyway. Kane will turn 28 just over a fortnight after the final and the elephant in the room is that should Tottenham’s season fade to dust in the manner recent weeks have threatened, there will be tough decisions ahead. Nobody would want to emerge from their peak years empty handed; he knows the issue of his future will stalk him through the coming months but is aware the rescheduled Euro 2020 will be that much more of an uphill struggle if he does not block out the noise.
“I think that’s a hard question to answer right now,” he says, when asked about the swirl of speculation that suggests he must leave Spurs in order to win major trophies. “It’s important that all my focus is on the two England games coming up now, the rest of the season with Spurs, and then the Euros. To be thinking about speculation or rumours would be damaging in terms of my own performance.
“I always like to be focused on one goal and one job and that’s to finish strongly with Spurs, win these [World Cup] qualifiers with England and hopefully go on and have a great Euros. I try to stay out of that speculation as much as possible. I’m fully focused on doing the job on the pitch from now until the end of the summer, and then we’ll see where we go from there.” That will do nothing to quell the murmurings given Kane, who has been conspicuous by his silence for most of the season, could have scotched them then and there.
Spurs have had “a difficult spell”, he admits, although he emphasises a top-four finish and Carabao Cup final win would alter perceptions. He has set out his conditions for long-term contentment at Tottenham several times, saying six months before signing a new contract in 2018 that the aim was to “just keep progressing, keep getting better”. Back then he continued: “We want to start winning trophies, so that’s the aim. As long as the club keeps doing that then I’m happy here.”
Yet his cabinet is bare and it would be strange if, given all the shots at glory Spurs have been offered, he furnished it for the first time with a once-in-a-generation achievement in a national team shirt. The clock is ticking and, speaking on Friday, Kane gave the air of a player at pains to push on. He is Spurs’ No 9; with 13 assists in the league this season he is also, to all intents and purposes, their No 10.
Kane has been brilliant for a spluttering team and, through his disarming manner, there is little doubting he knows it. He certainly agrees he has never taken a more complete package into an international competition.
“I’m 27 now, I’ve had a lot of experience in the game,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of time to learn and adapt and find things that work, things that don’t. You’re probably seeing this season an evolution of that, and I probably feel at my best mentally in terms of where my game’s at: being confident on the pitch and scoring goals, assisting goals, defending. I always feel like I can have an impact on the game.
“So yeah, I’m definitely at that stage in my career. I’m always someone who has said I can improve year in, year out, and that’s what I feel like I’ve done. I’m not the finished article by any means but I’m in a very good place at the moment.”
That goes for his state of mind; the question is whether it will also apply to his club. Kane will face Robert Lewandowski, the 32-year-old who is the only comparable centre-forward on the continent, when England face Poland on Wednesday. He rhapsodises about Lewandowski’s all-round game and that over the past five years he has hit an extra gear. “I feel like, especially nowadays, there is no reason why you can’t be hitting your prime in your early 30s,” Kane says. “So that’s what I want to be doing. I still feel like I’ve got plenty more years to go, learn and improve.”
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But Lewandowski plays for Bayern Munich and material achievements are, of course, where comparisons diverge. The Pole has won eight Bundesliga titles, a Champions League and a Club World Cup, six of those trophies coming after he turned 28. The last of those figures will not go over Kane’s head. In the right setting he could ensure that, even if the next four months do not transpire according to plan, all is far from lost.
For now his gaze is trained only on the prize that sits visibly ahead. Kane does not want to follow Wayne Rooney in looking back at missed opportunities at World Cups and European Championships. “If I get to the end of my career and haven’t won a trophy with England I’d always look back and probably regret that in the same way,” he says. There is the increasing sense that a similar penny will drop regarding his club career after his summer’s work is done.