Harry Kane launched his new foundation last month with a short animation, narrated by the player himself, which effectively framed his rise to the top of the game as a response to the “feeling of rejection” at being released by Arsenal as an eight-year-old.
After all these years, and as he prepares to lead his country at another World Cup here in Qatar, it is striking that Kane has not lost the burning desire to prove people wrong.
By his own admission, he has built an “identity” and “part of my personality” on silencing his doubters, although today, of course, there are few serious doubters left to quiet.
Instead, Kane’s drive for self-improvement has come to feel like a battle against his own limitations, both mental and physical.
For all his strength of character, there has long been a perception that Kane has physical frailties, and the pre-tournament schedule has raised concerns about the 29-year-old’s condition, particularly after Antonio Conte, the Tottenham head coach, revealed the striker was “very, very tired” last week.
Kane, though, has never appeared more durable. He has carried Spurs through the first half of the season, compensating for their injuries in attacking areas by playing more
minutes across all competitions than any other top-flight player.
He has scored 12 goals in 15 League games — second only to Erling Haaland — to inch within touching distance of becoming the club’s all-time top scorer.
In the past, the strain of playing almost every minute of every game might have seen Kane succumb to injury, most likely an ankle ligament issue, but going into the World Cup he believes he has never been fitter — a result of working daily with Conte and a specialist personal physio for one week of every month.
England Training Session for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar | 17th November 2022
Conte has urged England fans not to worry about their talisman, while Kane believes the timing of the World Cup could even be a positive.
“I’d rather be going into it playing loads of games where you feel match fit,” he said this week. “Sometimes after the season in the summer you have a break and then you have to gear back up to play and you haven’t played a lot of games. Rolling into it can help — as long as you manage it well and you recover well. I think recovery is the most important thing for any player in this period.
“You can try and train as much as you can, but the bottom line is you need to be ready to have all your energy ready for the game, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Mentally, too, Kane, who won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, has never appeared stronger.
Kane has made it clear that Gareth Southgate’s squad are going to Qatar to win the World Cup, while he is also chasing Wayne Rooney’s all-time scoring record for England — he needs just two goals to go level with the former captain.
He is going into the tournament with the weight of a nation’s expectations on his shoulders, as England’s captain and the only truly irreplaceable member of Southgate’s side.
Given his situation, Kane might have been forgiven for holding something back for Spurs in the first half of the campaign, amid the risk of burnout or injury, but he has shown no signs of reining it in.
While he has perhaps not played at full intensity, he has managed the schedule with remarkable professionalism and maturity.
“Now he is arriving to play the World Cup with great enthusiasm, in a good physical condition and, in my opinion, he is mentally stronger than before,” Conte said last week.
“I see a player ready and I see in his eyes the desire to be a protagonist in the best competition in the world. I try to push every player to try to become better, but also it’s happening with Harry. We are talking about a really world-class striker. He can continue to improve and to become stronger and stronger. I think so.
“He’s arriving at this World Cup in the best physical and mental condition.”