Wantaway striker Harry Kane was conspicuously absent as the team he wants to leave, Tottenham Hotspur, dispatched the team he wants to join, Manchester City, in a hugely entertaining Premier League encounter on Sunday.
England skipper Kane’s decision to agitate for a record-breaking move to the reigning Premier League champions was a narrative which bubbled under much of the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Fans of Pep Guardiola’s City side opened the defense of their Premier League crown singing, “Harry Kane, he wants to be blue” – but by the time the final whistle came a little under two hours later, there was just one set of supporters in full voice.
City – who gave a Premier League debut to $139 million signing Jack Grealish – appeared toothless in attack throughout the 90 minutes, suggesting that their dogged pursuit of Kane is a symptom of the club’s continuing troubles in front of goal, with this game now marking the third competitive fixture in a row in which they have failed to score.
Suddenly, Spurs’ reported $222 million asking price for their prized asset might not seem to be too far-fetched.
Guardiola’s team were second best throughout. A few players, perhaps most notably Raheem Sterling, looked as though they were suffering from a Euro 2020 hangover – and that was in stark contrast to Tottenham, whose new Portuguese boss, Nuno Espirito Santo, coaxed a masterful performance from a team he looks to have galvanized after a miserable campaign last year.
And in Son Heung-min, Spurs have a player who can very much fill the potential Kane-shaped void that Spurs might be facing by the end of the summer transfer window.
The South Korea star, dangerous throughout, broke the deadlock on 55 minutes when he turned City defender Nathan Ake inside out on the edge of the penalty area to bend a shot past the unsighted Ederson.
In truth, the gap could have been bigger. Son also went close in the first half with a deflected effort, while Steven Bergwijn fizzed wide when he should have done better.
The defeat caps a miserable few months for Guardiola and Manchester City. Sure, they won the Premier League at a canter, but the defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League final was a seismic blow.
Cracking performance and victory for @SpursOfficial. As for @ManCity, well they have lost their last 3 competitive games by one goal to nil: the Champions League final, Comminuity Shield and the opening game of the season.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) August 15, 2021
Man City have now failed to score in each of their last three games:❌ 0-1 vs. Chelsea ❌ 0-1 vs. Leicester❌ 0-1 vs. Tottenham Maybe they do need Harry Kane. 😅 pic.twitter.com/nScpMVdcUU
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 15, 2021
“Look, Harry Kane is one of the best players in the world, honestly,” said Nuno told Sky Sports afterwards. “We are very lucky to have him. He has to get ready and help the team. We still have to go to Portugal – then we think about Wolves [at Molineux next Sunday].”
As for City, this month’s Community Shield defeat to Leicester City will have stung too, but more concerning is the aforementioned lack of guile up front – with their chief target, Kane, presumably watching the game from some secret location nearby.
City will, of course, make corrections and Spurs will struggle at times this season – but, on today’s evidence at least, there is life without Harry Kane.
Can the same be same be said for Manchester City?