Mauricio Pochettino had to make a decision...should Harry Kane, England Captain, world-class striker....play or not in the Champions League final versus Liverpool? No one can argue with Pochettino's growth and solidification as a top level manager...but on this occasion...he got it wrong!! Harry Kane has given Tottenham and England so much over the past few years. He has become a coveted striker on top of the tier A striker class across the planet. Clubs from all leagues around the world would easily love to have him wearing their jersey and representing their side. But on this day, when Kane was never able to be his true self...in the Champions League final Harry Kane gave his side absolutely nothing.
No one can argue with Kane's class. Let's take a look at his statistics only from the Premier League:
- 2018/2019 17 Goals 4 Assists
- 2017/2018 30 Goals 2 Assists
- 2016/2017 29 Goals 7 Assists
- 2015/2016 25 Goals 1 Assists
- 2014/2015 21 Goals 4 Assists
These statistics, again...only from the Premier League clearly sets Kane apart from the everyday class of striker. But his 2018/19 campaign has unfortunately been stricken with injury. Having injured ligaments in his left ankle about two months ago, Kane's production levels naturally dipped. As you can see from above statistics, Kane only had 17 goals in the 18/19 campaign which is off from his normal pace. That said, no one would ever argue that this man is of another class, the Captain of England and top striker in the Premiership. So when Pochettino had to make a decision it was only natural for him to move in the favor of the England Captain...his talisman...the face of a Tottenham club that seen now as one of the best in the league and in the world.
At one point in the first half, it was noted that Kane had only 11 touches on the ball. Let's just say that it was not entirely Kane's fault and it seemed that Pochettino had no real strategy for Kane and was seemingly outclassed by his contemporary Klopp, but at what point does the player take responsibility for his performance? In total Kane only had 26 touches on the ball...but surprisingly Kane remained on the field and as the Kane pressed on Pochettino decided to substitute Alli instead of Kane. Admittedly Alli also did not have his greatest performance, but from a spectators perspective, he gave Tottenham much more than Kane was able to give.
Aside from the fact that all players must take responsibility for their own performance any great player would tip the scales towards playing in a Champions League final versus not playing. As a former player I know I would have made the decision to play as well. That said, it is up to Pochettino to make these difficult decisions when the player is making decisions with his heart and not his head. Tottenham paid the price as time and again they were unable to put anything worthwhile together in terms of a counterattack (or an attack in general). Additionally it was clear to see that the players around Kane who had not played with him for 2 months did not seem to have a cohesion with him or as a unit. It was a gamble for the movies but for reality there were way too many complexities to chose such a strategy.
On the day it was clear that Tottenham's only hope for an equalizer after the unfortunate but correct penalty that was called within moments of the game starting...was the South Korean Son Heung -min. He was bright all day and clearly the most dangerous player in the Tottenham side. When looking across the internet at player ratings many gave Son Heung-min around a 5. This writer disagrees. Son had his usual work-rate, played with speed and was easily the most dangerous player in the side. Of late Son has been playing very well for Tottenham and frankly should have been who they strategized around for the final given Kane's injury and lack of action in the preceding months.
All of the above being said, there is no doubt that Harry Kane is world class. If Pochettino had it all to do over again, he may have had the difficulty of saying "no" to the England Captain. Or when he saw that Kane, despite his best efforts could not be the man he needed to be for the club....he should have taken him off and went in another direction.