Harry Kane sat on a bench next to Jamie Vardy in 2013, as Leicester City lost 3-1 to Watford in a play-off semi-final. Kane was on his fourth loan spell away from parent club, Tottenham Hotspur. Footballers aren’t just getting younger every year, they’re getting written off quicker than ever.
Vardy was 26 that day, an unused substitute: look at him now. Kane, too, hadn’t quite been moulded into anything for big-club consumption - until Mauricio Pochettino came along. Now in France, Poch has on-loan Everton forward Moise Kean at his disposal. For anyone who saw him in England, he’s exactly the kind of footballer that Poch has the reputation for rehabilitating.
This weekend, Kean was given the key of being Paris Saint-Germain’s starting No.9. He toiled, he ran, he worked the channels, vacated space and earned a two-yard tap-in for his work - the first goal of the Pochettino Dynasty. PSG’s superstars high-fived for the cameras; Kean, meanwhile, was still face-planted from burying the diving header. He worked his bloody socks off and he now has three in three. Things are starting to look up.
A new man in the dugout could have gone either way for the strker - but luckily, Pochettino is more carrot than stick. He has the elder brother vibe that Marco Silva never had. He’s an encourager - and that’s what young strikers need. Kean is the kind of player who needs warmth rather than a cold shoulder.
This is a manager who demands hard-running, intelligent pressing and a striker rounded enough to understand all elements of the game. That suits Icardi and his assassin’s mentality but it might take some coaxing out of Kean. Kean naturally gravitates to where he needs to be and from a very young age, he’s had ice-cool composure - but the belief and the consistency are only starting to show this season - Pochettino can help make it more regular.
The Argentinian boss spent years in North London getting extra yards of running out of his men, squeezing more goals out of Kane. The difference in Eriksen’s output levels, in Son Heung-min’s directness, in Kane’s hunger and belief in himself - what could he do with someone as naturally gifted as Kean? OK, he’s just on loan, but it’ll be an intriguing second half of the season for the striker.
After all, fielding Kean ahead of Icardi was a big deal in Pochettino’s debut and it paid off. Harry Kane, remember, was just 20 when he was still coming off the bench for Leicester. Perhaps there’s a world-class footballer in Moise Kean, yet.
Elsewhere in Ligue 1
50% of the season gone and Lyon are still top of the pack, clawing two goals back in the last 12 minutes to draw 2-2 with Rennes. Monaco are resurgent, winning 3-0 against Angers at the weekend - they sit in the Champions League spots, fourth behind PSG in second and Lille in third, after they beat Nimes 1-0.
Lionel Messi continued his superb 2021 form, netting twice against 10-man Granada for Barcelona. Antoine Griezmann picked up a brace too in the 4-0 win, making it three wins from the last three for Barca - they sit four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid lost ground on their local rivals at the weekend though, only managing a 0-0 draw against Osasuna. Goals seem to be a worry for Los Blancos, who won the league with an Atletico-like low figure last campaign and haven’t really stepped up with many more strikes this term, either.
Sevilla and Real Sociedad gave La Liga the game of the weekend, as four goals were scored in the opening 15 minutes of the game. After the Basque side led the league standings early on, Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla are now level with La Real, who have only won one of their last five.
Schalke fans can breathe a sigh of relief - for this week, at least. The 30-game run without a win ended emphatically against Hoffenheim, with a 4-0 thumping, at last giving the Royal Blues something to celebrate. They’re still only a point off bottom but the manor of the performance, capped by a Matthew Hoppe hat-trick will give cause for optimism.
Margins at the top are equally fine. Bayern Munich were 2-0 up and cruising away to Borussia Monchengladbach before Marco Rose’s men turned the tide to win 3-2. RB Leipzig failed to capitalise on a rare Bavarian wobble, however, beaten 3-1 by Borussia Dortmund and two Erling Haaland goals. Bayern sit two points clear of Leipzig; BVB are fourth.
Perhaps surprisingly, Bayer Leverkusen are wedged in third between the big boys, despite losing top scorer and talisman Kai Havertz for big money over the summer. While Havertz is struggling to adapt to English life, Leverkusen are coping with Patrick Schick now up top; they drew 1-1 with Werder Bremen at the weekend to prevent a third successive defeat, though.
Serie A’s headline clash of the weekend was an 11:30 kick-off, as Roma held Inter Milan to a 2-2 draw. Roma have been steadily growing into the season, led by Old Trafford old boys Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. They now sit second in the league.
AC Milan still top the tree into 2021. While Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still getting all the attention, the Rafael Leao again stepped up at the weekend in a 2-0 win over Torino, while Franck Kessie is developing into one of the most well-rounded midfielders in Europe.
Juventus are only fourth - with a game in hand - but dismantled the impressive Sassuolo 3-1, with Cristiano Ronaldo putting the finishing touches on the win. Atalanta and Napoli both won at the weekend too; they’re level on points in fifth and sixth, two points behind Juve.
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