Kane can be Tottenham's Totti, says Pochettino

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Harry Kane

Harry Kane could become as emblematic a player for Tottenham Hotspur as Francesco Totti was for Roma, his manager Mauricio Pochettino said on Friday.

The 24-year-old England striker – who has been with Tottenham since 2009 – established a new Premier League record of goals in a calendar year with a hat-trick against Southampton earlier this week to move to 39 in 2017.

That took him past Alan Shearer’s previous record of 36 goals in a year set in 1995.

Kane has a total of 56 goals for club and country this year, making him the highest scorer in Europe in 2017, and Shearer thinks he could remain with Tottenham for the rest of his career.

Totti did likewise in the Italian capital, becoming known as ‘The Eighth King of Rome’ as he spent the whole of his professional career with Roma, totting up over 600 appearances and only retiring aged 40 at the end of last season.

“I think Alan Shearer knows better than me, because he’s English and knows the mentality of the country,” said Pochettino, Tottenham’s Argentine coach.

Francesco Totti

“Maybe he said that because maybe it’s possible. Maybe Harry Kane with his mentality can be the same kind of player for Tottenham as Francesco Totti was for Roma.

“And for us, our fans and everyone, Harry is a fantastic player, a great mentality and a fantastic professional. So yes, why not, why not?”

Pochettino, who admitted Kane is a doubt because of a heavy cold for their away match at bottom side Swansea City next Tuesday, said he couldn’t put a price on the 23-times capped striker’s head.

“I think Harry doesn’t have a price, because we want him here. He’s priceless, there is no price,” said Pochettino.

“We can talk about many things, but at the end it’s talk for talk, because it’s impossible to put a price on him.

“He’s not suddenly become a superstar because of achieving an amazing record.

“Nothing has changed, he was a superstar three years ago, one year ago, six months ago and one week ago. We’ve always treated him like a superstar.”

However, Pochettino admits with Liverpool splashing out £75 million ($100 million) for Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk – a world record for a defender – earlier this week sometimes it is impossible to turn down offers.

“We need to talk about reality,” said Pochettino, whose side are fifth in the table, an enormous 21 points behind leaders Manchester City.

“Reality is that Liverpool offers or pays £75 million for Virgil van Dijk.

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Van Dijk a smart move for Liverpool even if Barcelona land Coutinho

Chris Bailey 30/12/2017
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When Liverpool last made a transfer market splash this big, both idea and execution was right. It’s just that Andy Carroll was definitely their Mr Wrong.

Cast your mind back to January 2011, when a moping Fernando Torres had coasted his way through the first half of the season despite pledging his loyalty to Roy Hodgson.

Everyone seemingly knew those words would count for little, except for Liverpool. Eventually Torres did enough sulking for Chelsea to wear down their resistance and – belatedly – they tried to turn the situation into an advantage.

Hard as it is to believe now, £50m for a world class striker was a gargantuan price to pay in the olden days. But the Reds also needed a replacement for Torres. So they diverted £35m of the cash to Newcastle for Carroll and the rest covered off a large portion of the fee it cost to bring Luis Suarez to Anfield.

Suarez was good – great even – Torres was bad, and Carroll was just downright ugly. But there was one clear winner, and Liverpool are about to pull off an even bigger victory six years later in a similar situation.

History is repeating itself with Philippe Coutinho. He is doing a Torres and a Suarez, gnashing his teeth until he gets what he wants – though at the very least maintaining his professionalism on the pitch with a string of superb performances.

Can you imagine a 35-yearold Coutinho, his hair flecked with grey, retiring at Anfield to a standing ovation? No. And nor can Liverpool, which is why in signing Virgil van Dijk, they’ve effectively let Coutinho free. Don’t believe the talk of Barca moving on from Coutinho and sending love poems to Antoine Griezmann. The Brazilian and the Blaugrana are a match made in heaven, someone with the positional flexibility to replace Andres Iniesta – with just about enough talent to do so – or enhance a front three.

With Coutinho set to raise £100m plus either next month or in the summer, Liverpool could afford to shell out £75m for Van Dijk without sweating buckets over the cost. Another piece of the puzzle is Naby Keita. With the Reds already committed to handing over at least £48m to RB Leipzig for the midfielder in the summer, there is no way an unhappy cash cow like Coutinho would be forced to stick around. The Premier League may be flush with money but Liverpool have to be a little shrewder with their sums than Man City, United and Chelsea.

The equation is simple. Coutinho = Keita and Van Dijk, give or take a little cash. Sounds better than Torres = Carroll and Suarez, right?

This time, however, Liverpool have addressed two needs, one so glaring it’s a wonder that the decision-makers weren’t blinded by the light a long time ago. As fine of a player as he is, in selling Coutinho they would not be removing the heart of their team. Think of it as removing a digit to reinforce the spine.

Jurgen Klopp has claimed, to the disbelief of everyone, that Liverpool take a defence-first approach. Finally though he has a leader of men who can organise and raise the game of the lesser lights around him at the back. 

The function of Keita is a little less clear-cut – initially a defensive midfielder by trade, the 23-year old has been Leipzig’s Swiss army knife as both a creator and a destroyer. But with Emre Can almost certainly on his way out, Liverpool need a deeper option in midfield more than they need Coutinho.

Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge (for now) and a rising Dominic Solanke are all capable of operating in attacking positions.

Coutinho is scoring and setting up goals as well as he ever has, but some of Liverpool’s most impressive attacking performances – like the 4-0 thumping Arsenal – came without his involvement.

If the imminent departure of disillusioned Coutinho did indeed lead to the signing of Van Dijk – who unveiled his Liverpool shirt like a kid at Christmas on social media – then it was a no-brainer.

In one way, Van Dijk is as big a signing as a 1.93m tall Carroll. It’s a good job he plays in defence.

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Michael Keane column: Everton's resurgence sparked by Allardyce, Rooney

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We [Everton] head into this weekend’s match against Bournemouth seven games undefeated in the Premier League, which is never easy to achieve. We are keeping clean sheets again and our new manager, Sam Allardyce, has really helped in that respect.

We’ve gone back to basics since Sam arrived in November and I think you can see that on the pitch with the way we are performing. We know we can get better going forward and that’s something we are striving to do but having the base of keeping clean sheets is massively important. We have recorded six in our last eight games, conceding only two goals in that period.

In training we have worked in a back-four or back-five, defending wave after wave of attacks. We have paid attention to distances of where we want to be on the pitch and worked on covering each other. It’s things like that – if you do them little but often it makes a big difference. The manager has got us all working together as a unit and we know that defending starts from the front and through midfield as well.

I was recalled to the team against Chelsea – when we took a point in a hard-earned nil-nil draw – and hopefully that performance will give me that confidence to kick on. I did well in that match at Goodison and then played against West Brom on Boxing Day, when we kept another clean sheet.

Sam Allardyce and his staff have breathed new life into Everton

Sam Allardyce and his staff have breathed new life into Everton

The manager has been great and has spoken to me on several occasions to offer advice. He’s a likeable guy who is easy to talk to, and I feel any one of the lads could approach him if they wanted to ask a question.

Obviously, he has bags of experience, as do the staff he has brought in such as assistant manager Sammy Lee and first-team coach Craig Shakespeare. The atmosphere is great and the lads are really enjoying playing football again.

Another big factor behind our recent upturn in form has been Wayne Rooney’s performances. He’s scoring plenty of goals but it’s also his calmness on the ball – he is always looking to play forward and release those passes between the lines.

Wayne Rooney has been a real asset to the squad

Wayne Rooney has been a real asset to the squad

With all his experience, he is great to have around the place. He’s not someone who is going to force anything on you but, if you want to pick his brain, he’s more than happy to help.

We approach the new year with plenty of optimism. We need to keep working hard on the training ground and maintain that belief in what we are doing. That stems from results, so we want to continue grinding them out, winning matches and keep that undefeated run going.

We are all looking up now instead of down and, whilst we don’t want to look too far ahead, we still believe we have a chance of forcing our way into the battle for European places.

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