November couldn’t have started any worse for Bayern Munich. In losing 2-1 to lowly third-tier club FC Saarbrücken in the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday night, they were on the wrong end of arguably one of the biggest ever shocks in German club football. It came 23 years to the day since they were dumped out of the same competition by fourth-tier side FC Magdeburg – their last defeat to a side outside the top two league tiers of Germany.
One consolation for Harry Kane is that he didn’t play any part in the disaster that unfolded in Saarland.
Ahead of Wednesday, Kane would undoubtedly have been over the moon if you’d have told him his start at Bayern Munich would see an unbeaten run of nine Bundesliga games, or that he’d have scored 12 goals already across those matches. He might not be quite so happy, however, knowing that only the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League trophies remain up for grabs to end his personal quest for silverware.
The ’Kane Curse’ has been joked about for years, with not only Spurs failing to win a single trophy with one of the best ever English players within their ranks but England falling in the latter stages of two World Cups and losing the Euro 2020 final against Italy on penalties despite leading at Wembley. After their shocking cup exit to the current 51st-ranked team in German league football, Bayern fans will be worried the curse has followed Kane to Munich.
Bayern sit two points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga table ahead of this weekend’s Der Klassiker versus Borussia Dortmund, while Kane has had to make do with second place in the goalscoring charts after Serhou Guirassy’s unexpected rise to the top of Europe with his 14 goals in eight appearances for VfB Stuttgart. Despite this, the man in Skechers boots has enjoyed anything but a sketchy start to his life in Munich.
Back in August, we pondered how Tottenham would cope without Kane. It turns out they’ve coped just fine, as they top the Premier League table after 10 games with just four points dropped. But it’s also a move that’s worked out incredibly well for the England captain and, before their DFB-Pokal exit, Bayern, too. Kane’s latest league performance saw him score his second Bundesliga hat-trick already, in an eight-goal demolition of Darmstadt last weekend, which included a sensational goal from inside his own half.
D̴a̴̴v̴̴i̴̴d̴ ̴B̴̴e̴̴c̴̴k̴̴h̴a̴̴m̴, W̴a̴̴y̴̴n̴̴e̴ ̴R̴̴o̴̴o̴̴n̴̴e̴̴y̴, Harry Kane 🏴😱— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 28, 2023
A goal from the half-way line, UNBELIEVABLE! 🤩🔥 pic.twitter.com/Bmgk3FolpW
This is Kane’s best start to a league season in his career in terms of goals (12); he’d never before reached double figures inside his opening nine appearances of a campaign. With five Bundesliga assists across his nine matches to boot, it’s also his most goal involvements at this stage of a league campaign (17). He’s scored in nine of his 13 competitive appearances for the record German champions so far in 2023-24, with a total of 14 goals – five more than any other Bayern player, ahead of Leroy Sané on nine. He’s added seven assists in those 13 games across all competitions, a tally that only Florian Wirtz has bettered (nine) among all Bundesliga players.
Despite winning their 11th successive Bundesliga title last season, Bayern were missing the goalscorer that they’ve become accustomed to relying on in recent years. Across the eight seasons with Robert Lewandowski leading their attack, the Pole scored at least 20 league goals in all but one of his campaigns at the club, with his first season producing a ‘measly’ 17 goals.
Their top league scorer last season was Serge Gnabry with just 14 goals – the first time they’d had a top scorer in league competition with fewer than 15 goals since 2008-09 when Luca Toni topped their charts, also with 14. Just a quarter of the way through this season, Kane is already just two goals off Gnabry’s 2022-23 tally and four away from the leading scorers in the Bundesliga last season – Niclas Füllkrug and Christopher Nkunku, who scored 16 goals apiece.
Kane’s 12 Bundesliga goals are two more than any player had previously scored across their opening nine appearances in the competition, a record that was previously jointly held by Paco Alcácer, Klaus Matischak, Rüdiger Mielke, Horst Hrubesch, Gert Dörfel and Erling Haaland. If the 30-year-old can find 19 more goals across Bayern’s remaining 25 league matches in 2023-24, he’d break the competition record for the most goals scored in a debut Bundesliga campaign, which is currently held by Uwe Seeler (30) in 1963-64. Seeler also holds the competition record for the fewest appearances to reach 30 Bundesliga goals (30 apps), just ahead of Haaland while at Dortmund (32).
Last season was the closest that they have come to losing their grip at the top of the Bundesliga since their last failure to win the title in 2011-12 to Borussia Dortmund. It could be argued that Bayern didn’t win the Bundesliga last season, but rather BVB lost it, as they failed to defeat mid-table Mainz at home, and Thomas Tuchel’s side ended in first place on goal difference after winning 2-1 at FC Köln. Bayern’s lack of a goalscorer didn’t help their cause, but signing record Spurs and England striker Kane this summer was a strong message to show they’d learned from their mistake and knew they needed to improve.
Since his first full season of Premier League action at Spurs in 2014-15 to the end of 2022-23, Kane was the fourth highest goalscorer in the top five European leagues with 210 goals – behind only Lewandowski (261), Lionel Messi (253) and Cristiano Ronaldo (234). Bayern weren’t going to re-sign Lewandowski, while Messi and Ronaldo are not the players they once were, so in one sense at least Kane is the best they could have got.
He was also among the best creative players in Europe in recent seasons, placed within the top 15 for chances created in open play across the 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 campaigns, with 148 created for teammates at Spurs.
His ability to create for others has continued since his move to Munich. Across the Bundesliga’s opening nine matchweeks of 2023-24, no player has a higher xG assisted total (quite simply, the expected goals total of the shots created by a player) from open-play passes than Kane’s 3.2. This comes despite just nine of his passes leading to shots from teammates, showing the quality of those chances created.
Of his total xG assisted in open play for teammates, over half (1.86) have been for Leroy Sané – the highest total from one player to another in the entire German top flight so far this season. Sané has struck up a good understanding with Kane over the opening two months of the season and he has returned the favour, with his overall xG assisted total for Kane (1.34) the sixth highest from one player to a teammate in the Bundesliga. Also, his six chances created for him are more than from any other player at Bayern.
Kane’s ability to play almost roles as both a 9 and a 10 in the same match means he’s so much harder for opposition defenders to tightly mark. He drifts deep to receive the ball – as we saw for many years at Spurs – and just 15.5% of his touches have come inside the opposition penalty area for Bayern this season. That’s quite a bit below other leading forwards in Europe’s top leagues this campaign: 27.2% by Haaland, 21.8% by Kylian Mbappé, 27.1% by Victor Osimhen and Bundesliga trio Guirassy (18.0%), Victor Boniface (22.8%) and Loïs Openda (22.2%).
The England captain is the perfect player for Tuchel’s Bayern side. There aren’t many currently in world football that can drop deep and pull opposition defenders out of shape as well as Kane, and to have someone to do this as efficiently as him when you have the technical skill and pace of advanced full-backs and midfielders like Sané, Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Jamal Musiala makes Bayern a terrifying opponent to switch off against. One false move by a defender and Bayern will often capitalise. This extends to transitional play, too – Bayern have had 26 goal attempts following fast breaks in their nine games this season, which is below just three teams across Europe’s top five leagues: Montpellier (29), Paris Saint-Germain (32) and Aston Villa (32), and the latter two have played a game more than the Germans.
Bayern may have enjoyed their best start to a Bundesliga campaign in seven years, but they will come up against a confident Borussia Dortmund on Saturday and will need Kane to be on form. Edin Terzić’s side are also unbeaten in league competition this season, albeit two points behind Bayern so far. Their unbeaten run extends to 17 Bundesliga matches going back to last season, with this the club’s best league unbeaten run since going 31 games without a loss across 2011 and 2012, though their last defeat came at the hands of Bayern in April this year (4-2).
Saturday’s match offers Kane a chance to extend a personal record, too. He’s never faced Dortmund in league competition, having scored against 39 of the 41 different top-flight league opponents that he’s previously faced – only failing versus Borussia Mönchengladbach and SC Freiburg, both scoreless records that he’ll have the chance to correct later this season.
Of course, one of the main reasons why Kane moved to Bayern was his quest to win trophies at club level – something he never managed to do in all his years at Spurs. Ironically, Spurs seem better placed than ever to win silverware since Kane departed, judging by their start to life under new coach Ange Postecoglou. He had an opportunity to win the German Super Cup a day after arriving at Bayern, but a 3-0 defeat to RB Leipzig denied him, which further increased the ‘curse’ joke at his expense.
But judging by his own performances since signing and the quality within Bayern’s squad this season, it very well could be Kane having the last laugh come May.
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
Ahead of kick-off on Saturday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund:
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