Harry Kane proves he belongs in the company of Cristiano Ronaldo
Yes, he can shine on a cold Wednesday night in Stoke, but could he do it on a warm Tuesday evening in Madrid? Reversing the preposterous Lionel Messi line, football wondered whether Harry Kane could justify all that towering praise in the Bernabeu, home of the 12-time European champions and Cristiano Ronaldo’s personal stage.
The answer was yes, even if a fingertip save by Keylor Navas with 20 minutes left denied Kane a moment of ecstasy, far below the strip of 4,000 Tottenham fans, who celebrated this fine 1-1 draw as if it were in the late knock-out rounds. Kane burst to life around 18 minutes into this game and was intermittently a menace from then on, forcing Raphael Varane into the error that gave Spurs the lead through an own goal, before His Lordship equalised from the penalty spot just before half-time.
We should go no further before mentioning another Harry – Winks – who, at 21, displayed remarkable character and positivity against the Madrid midfield heavyweights, Luka Modric and Toni Kross. Tottenham: ‘the team of Harrys’.
The real credit for this hard-won point must go to Tottenham’s defenders, and especially Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham net. But if Kane’s intention was to appear a natural at this level, he could return to London satisfied, though he will curse himself for that 70th-minute miss.
Ronaldo, who also let opportunities slip, was making his 143rd Champions League appearance here while Kane was making his sixth. The respective goal tallies are now 110 to seven. No stat could protect Kane, however, from the sense that this was his grand arrival in this echelon.
No pressure, then: just an important group game framed as Kane’s graduation. “The Harry Kane team” (Pep Guardiola) fielded the “complete player” (Zinedine Zidane) against a Real Madrid back line who have seen it all before. Without the suspended Dele Alli, Mauricio Pochettino promoted Fernando Llorente to play behind Kane, which helped the Premier League’s top scorer of the last two seasons feel less alone against Sergio Ramos and Varane.
The Harry Kane story is in danger of running away with itself. His own fault, you might say, for scoring so often, displaying no weakness, devoting himself to the job and catching the eye of Europe’s biggest clubs.
At the kick-off here, he was outscoring Ronaldo in 2017, 36 to 32, though both could count 43 for club and country. Ronaldo wins the jewellery contest, with four Ballon d’Ors and a quartet of Champions League titles to go with a European Championship winner’s medal with Portugal and five league crowns in England and Spain. A penalty after Serge Aurier had brought down Kroos brought Ronaldo his obligatory Bernabeu goal for the night.
From his Manchester United days, Ronaldo will remember the time when ‘Spursy’ Spurs were seen as a soft touch. Not now. From Monday on, this had the feel of a spicy meeting, in part because Kane took so much of the attention, with Zidane’s praise for him assumed to be the start of a long pursuit.
‘Harry El Fuerte,’ announced Marca, Real Madrid’s unofficial foghorn. ‘Harry, The Strong’. When did you last see an opposition player dominate the build-up to a Real Madrid home game? Frankly, visiting here can be an ordeal, a survival exercise. You need to be in this stadium to appreciate the sweep and flow of Real’s passing, the incredible technical level at which they operate.
For Winks, it was a high-board leap into the deep end, but one he undertook with extraordinary confidence. On this evidence, England must take him to the World Cup in Russia, because he is already better than at least half of Gareth Southgate’s midfielders. His chief asset is an arrow that points forward, an urge to push the play through gaps and into opposition territory. One hard lesson came when Winks set off on a run around the hour mark but was dispossessed, allowing Real to counter-strike, and Ronaldo to unleash a drive at Lloris.
Kane is a fine example to Winks. With Real having so much of the ball, it was a night for Prince Harry to prowl, hold his concentration, show he was comfortable with the examination set by a game at this level. His strong header from a first-half corner, which Navas saved, and his work around Varane’s own goal, affirmed his aristocratic credentials, in a stadium where they know a bit about authenticity.