Appraisals of both Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku have become particularly prevalent this week. With Lukaku putting four past Bournemouth last month and with Kane notching three hat-tricks in nine games, the contrast between the two has naturally gathered momentum. But why do we feel so obliged to choose between the two?
Temporarily pardoning myself from exactly that, both have 17 Premier League goals, both are 23 years old and both possess the ability to pursue accomplished careers. Comparisons are fine, but this mirrors the type of iconic deliberation that it nowhere near warrants. Maradona or Pele? Messi or Ronaldo? Gerrard or Lampard? Maradona v Pele is nostalgic, a reason for the previous generations to reflect upon their own eras. Messi vs Ronaldo is the current king, the most elite level of comparison that allows for some of the most intriguing arguments and ideas in and about football. Gerrard vs Lampard is an appreciation of England’s midfield which carries with it the modern rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea. Fans relish this part of the game; they pick out statistics to emphasise their side of the argument. Quantifiable measures help to shape our knowledge of the game which, subsequently, mould our views and opinions. Kane vs Lukaku? That’s just unproductive.
Comparisons between Kane and Lukaku have taken some time to surface. Given that Lukaku had been the sole goalscoring prospect since 2012, it was surprising that Kane’s arrival on the scene in the 2014/15 season wasn’t met with irrational hysteria. Both have had their share of the individual limelight, but only this week have the media become truly engaged in it. That in some part comes down to Tottenham’s reinvigoration under Pochettino, while Everton have struggled to advance from their 5th place finish in 2014. Now that both sides are competitive, and especially as the two will play each other this weekend, trivial statistics are being drawn out to forge some essence of judgement.
‘If you could only choose one, who would you rather have in your team?’ These are the sort of insular demands banded around social media and became the subject of a Carragher-Neville mulling on Monday night.
As for Twitter, we know that debate, if you can call it that, is what keeps football pertinent. ‘Polls’ have been an unwelcome addition, for they do little but invoke one-upmanship. As the question presents itself, it becomes so diluted in opposition fans and bias that they could never be considered ‘scientific’ and a true representation of the debate. Nor is that their purpose. They’re simply there to score points. When Kane vs Lukaku crops up, Tottenham fans vote for Kane and Everton fans for Lukaku. Tottenham, because of their recent climb to competitiveness, now have an abundance of clubs who choose to loath them. Conversely, Everton remain the people’s club because currently, they pose no perceived threat to the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. Those come out in the arguments, rendering them redundant.
Pettiness aside, there are more substantial points to consider. When Jamie Carragher introduced his reason for choosing Kane over Lukaku, he couldn’t truly reason why. His line, ‘without a doubt right now, Harry Kane, but Lukaku I think has got more potential to get out of himself’. He stumbles through his point, alluding to the idea that perhaps Lukaku possesses the more physical attributes which Kane lacks, most specifically, his power, pace and heading ability. That impression is absolutely flawed, for Kane’s pace is deceivingly powerful and his heading ability perfectly practised. Carragher, with his arguments, was being as rational as worthwhile pundit should be, but instead ended up clinging on to futility. Citing ‘potential’ is a line I struggle to comprehend. Players improve with sound coaching and momentum, but to tar all ‘prospects’ with the potential brush is loose. The idea of Lukaku having more potential, once more, feels lax. Neville agrees and chooses Kane, but adds some ‘subtlety’ and ‘nuance’ to the argument, suggesting that Lukaku is a favourable option for a side who is struggling and wants their lone striker to create something by hassling the opposition’s back four. Once more, I’d argue that this is a trait that both players enjoy. Both opted for Kane, but went onto explain why Lukaku might be a better option. In other words, they don’t really know. Why should they? When probed, you should be hesitant, there is so much that could happen. Last year, Jamie Vardy was a Ballon d’Or nominee, now he sits on seven goals with 15th placed Leicester City.
Both are players in their advent and comparisons are premature at this stage. Apart from goals and a competitive race for the Golden Boot, what else remains? Both play for different calibre sides, play in different systems and have unique styles. The likes of Maradona vs Pele and Ronaldo vs Messi have prospered because those are players who have and had ripened, realised their ability and resultant comparisons became rich and engaging. Their careers make for interesting points of reference; all we have for Kane and Lukaku is a few years of regular goals. Maybe in ten years, we can reflect upon this and begin to make informed comparisons, but that remains sheer speculation.
For now, our insistence on putting players head to head is a result of our own trivialities. We want statistics, reasons to be in control of our own opinion and the ability to choose one. But why? At this point, there is no real evaluation, simply reasons to enjoy two fine goal scorers doing what they do in the Premier League. Kane could be the next Alan Shearer, Lukaku is already Everton’s Premier League era top scorer. There is so much going for them individually that is seems mindless to burden them with comparison.