Harry Kane: At What Point Will He Be Considered One of the Greatest Forwards?
“But what trophies has he won?”
Whenever Harry Kane’s name is brought up in the discussion of the best forwards in Premier League history, that’s the inevitable response.
With 184 Premier League goals to his name, and still a full 2022-23 season until he reaches his 30s, is it time to not only think of Kane as one of the greatest goalscorers in Premier League history, but an all-time great in English top flight history?
Kane’s injury time equaliser at Chelsea on Sunday saw him reach 184 goals in the Premier League, drawing him level with Sergio Agüero in joint-fourth for the all-time most goals in the competition and now just three away from Andy Cole in third. With 24 goals now needed to reach Wayne Rooney’s tally of 208, it’s not out of the question that he could be placed behind only Alan Shearer in the Premier League goal ranks come the end of May 2023.
With all 184 of his Premier League goals coming for Tottenham Hotspur, Kane is also tied with Agüero as the top scoring player for a single club in Premier League history, with the England captain hoping to surpass the former Man City striker in Saturday’s home match with Wolves.
It seems only a matter of time before he hits 200 goals in the competition for the club. When he does hit that landmark, he’ll become the first player to reach 200 top flight league goals for an English club since Ian Rush did so for Liverpool in August 1993 – just shy of three decades ago. Before Rush, it was the late, great Jimmy Greaves, also for Spurs, in the late 1960s (220 goals in Division One).
There are only 27 players to have scored at least 200 top flight goals in English league history and there’s little doubt that Kane will go on to become the 28th, now that he’s only 16 goals away from the landmark.
Just three of those have surpassed 300 goals – Greaves (357), Steve Bloomer (314) and Dixie Dean (310), and Kane will have sights on reaching that landmark too, should age and injuries stay on his side. He’d only need another six seasons with an average of 19 goals a season to do so, which would take him up to his 35th birthday, so it’s not entirely impossible to think he could achieve it.
As it stands, he’s recorded a strike rate of 0.65 goals a game in top flight league football – that average is bettered by just eight of the 27 players to have scored 200 plus goals in English top-flight history, and stronger than post-war greats like Alan Shearer (0.51), Denis Law (0.53), Steve Bloomer (0.59) and Ian Rush (0.45).
As it stands, Harry Kane has never scored more goals at the same stage of his Premier League career as Shearer had, but he’s never been closer to emulating the all-time top scorer’s tally after a certain number of appearances. Kane’s now on 284 appearances in the Premier League and has 184 goals – just two away from Shearer’s tally (186) after his 284th appearance in the competition since it began in 1992 (yes, we’re aware he played in the top-flight before 1992, but this is looking at the Premier League goal record).
Shearer was stuck on 186 goals for three more appearances and didn’t score his 187th until his 288th appearance – this means that if Kane was to score two goals in his next three games, he’d draw level with Shearer for the first time ever, at the relative stages of their Premier League careers. Even more important, Kane would have time on his side too – Shearer was 31 years, 103 days old on his 284th Premier League appearance, which is two years and 86 days older than Kane was on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.
Obviously, Shearer’s been unfairly penalised for the Premier League beginning five years after his top-flight league debut, with 118 games and 23 goals to his name before the inaugural 1992-93 season of the current top flight competition. But then again, Shearer entered the Premier League era just two days after his 22nd birthday as an established professional with top-flight experience and having scored 17 goals in 1990-91 and 1991-92 combined – not a luxury Kane had when making his top-flight debut as a 19-year-old.
Let’s also not forget that from Shearer’s top flight league debut in March 1988 until May 1992, 45 players scored more First Division goals than he did (23) including Steve Bruce and Stuart Pearce, so he was hardly a renowned scorer at that stage of his career.
With Kane only making four Premier League appearances in 2012-13 following his debut in the first month of that season – one for Spurs, three for Norwich City – he then only made 10 more appearances and scored three goals in the next campaign, 2013-14 under Tim Sherwood.
Since making his Premier League debut on 18 August 2012, it’s obvious to all that Kane’s been among the most threatening attacking players in the competition.
Looking at non-penalty shots and goals, to ward off the naysayers who claim his goal threat is heavily inflated due to penalties, his threat is clear to see.
Of the 50 players to attempt the most non-penalty shots since 2012-13, Kane has attempted the fifth-highest average of shots per 90 (3.9) and goals per 90 (0.59). His 156 non-penalty goals are 19 more than the next most (Agüero’s 137).
It was 2014-15 where his career really took off, with new Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino trusting Kane as his main striker – trust that was repaid in goals, with 21 in the Premier League as a relative novice.
With 2014-15 being the season that Kane finally found regular first team football at Spurs, it’s the ideal start point to compare him to some of the greats across the top five European leagues.
Since that season, only three players – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski – have scored more goals across the top five European leagues than Kane (181), while only Luis Suárez is added to that list of players ahead of Kane for non-penalty goals across that timeframe.
Since Antonio Conte arrived at Spurs on 2 November 2021, Kane’s scored 17 goals in 30 Premier League appearances – only team-mate Son Heung-min has more (19), while his tally of 13 non-penalty goals is bettered by only Son (19) and Kevin De Bruyne (14).
Of his 17 league goals under the Italian’s management, seven have come against the other clubs in the ‘big six’ – scoring against every one of Arsenal (2), Man City (2), Chelsea (1), Liverpool (1) and Man Utd (1), with two of those goals being winners and another being a late equaliser.
His goal tally from non-penalty shots is more impressive given that Kane’s averaged just 5.2 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes under Conte in the Premier League – far less than Mohamed Salah (11.5) and Gabriel Jesus (10.4), while even fewer than forwards like Ivan Toney (5.5) and Ollie Watkins (5.7).
The Athletic’s recent analysis about player roles suggested that Kane now plays in a deeper role as a “roamer” across 2020-21 and 2021-22 rather than a “finisher”, but interestingly the amount of time he spent in the opposition box (5.9 touches per 90) wasn’t much different to what it has been under Conte. He’s never been a “box” player, like a Jamie Vardy (20% touches in opposition box in his PL career), Jesus (25%), or even Salah (18%) – Kane’s only had 13% of his touches in the opposition box since 2014-15.
This, coupled with the fact that he’s played his entire career at Spurs – who even the most ardent supporter would accept haven’t been the best team in the Premier League across any of his 10 full seasons at the club – make his goalscoring record even more remarkable.
With Kane’s name and reputation as one of the greatest English scorers of all-time, there always seems to be a “but” attached. There’s every chance that his fantastic club record won’t be fully admired until his playing days are over, but Kane’s ability to turn games on their head with not only his extreme goalscoring threat but his creativity too, are attributes that should be enjoyed while we’re lucky enough to watch him play live.
But yeah – he’s not won any trophies.
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