UEFA Champions League
Harry Kane can't stop scoring, but when will his trophy curse end?
UEFA Champions League

Harry Kane can't stop scoring, but when will his trophy curse end?

Updated Apr. 29, 2024 8:13 p.m. ET

When Harry Kane moved to Bayern Munich last summer, the expectation was that the cruel "curse" that has plagued an otherwise phenomenal career would soon be lifted.

Kane, the scorer of goals by the bucketload, the inspirational leader, the poised figurehead of English soccer, has done everything in his career except lift a major trophy, a painful fact that for a long time was more to do with Tottenham's enduring struggle to break through than any failing of his own.

Switching to Bayern, it was fairly and reasonably assumed, would fix the nagging problem. The German giant collects trophies with the same voracity that Kane racks up goals, and the team entered this season with a greedy record of having claimed 10 straight Bundesliga triumphs.


And yet, as Kane heads into Tuesday's Champions League first leg against Real Madrid, it is the toughest club competition of all that remains his only immediate chance for silverware.

Even with him scoring 42 times in all matches and remaining in contention to match Robert Lewandowski's all-time Bundesliga single-season scoring record, Bayern's title streak has ended. Bayer Leverkusen already clinched the title on the back of an incredible, unbeaten campaign.

"It would mean everything," Kane told reporters, at the 2022 World Cup, when asked to imagine the feeling of winning his first trophy. 

For now at least, the wait continues.

The fact that Kane's trophy cabinet remains bare, something he referenced in a humorous television commercial for Amazon Prime a few months back, is becoming an increasingly odd reality.

Time and again, the 31-year-old has upheld his part of the bargain. In the final of Euro 2020 with England, Kane smashed home the opening penalty of the shootout against Italy, but could only look on as three of his teammates missed.

With Tottenham, Kane tasted defeat against Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final. There was frustration in the Carabao Cup in 2015 and 2021. Tottenham's best shot at the English Premier League came unstuck in 2016, when +5000 outsider Leicester City produced a historically shocking upset.

"As much as this is great, I want to be winning the biggest team prizes," Kane said three years ago, when accepting the Premier League's Player of the Year award. "We're not quite doing that. It's bittersweet."

In 2018, Kane was the World Cup's top scorer, but defensive lapses cost England a late lead in the semifinal against Croatia, resulting in more disappointment.

It would be a quirky — and in some ways appropriate — end to the conversation if Kane can help Bayern win the Champions League this year, from a path where the difficulty could scarcely be higher.

Real Madrid cherishes this competition more than any other, having won it a record 14 times. At the Allianz Arena, and again eight days later in the Spanish capital, Kane and his colleagues will face a Madrid side spurred by the driving force of his England teammate Jude Bellingham, whose exploits in his debut season in La Liga have led to calls for anointing him as the world's best player.

The winner of the two-legged semifinal will take on Borussia Dortmund or Paris St. Germain on June 1, less than two weeks before the European Championship kicks off to decide the continent's best national team. Kane tried to play it cool when speaking to the media last weekend, but there is no doubt that this represents a huge opportunity for him.

"I'll hopefully score a few against Madrid," he said. "I'm confident I'm in a good moment and I can put some away. I'm looking forward to the atmosphere — I'm expecting it to go up another level and I'm excited."

Madrid knows all about Kane's danger in front of goal. Indeed, the club tried to sign him before he ultimately chose to move to Bayern.

"We have world-class defenders who have been through every moment at this club and have been to Champions League finals," Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde said. "But we have to respect (Kane and Bayern) first."

Kane is coming into a magnified window that will feel somewhat familiar, toeing the line between personal accolades and team success. If he can score six times in the last three games of the Bundesliga season and equal or break Lewandowski's record, the plaudits, already loud, would be deafening.

And yet, if Bayern can't get past Bellingham and company en route to a Champions League triumph, the topic of Kane's trophy curse will be front and center once more.

By every metric his career has been spectacular already. As proven by how quickly he has adapted to a new environment, his level of performance has never been better. He has essentially written the book on scoring at the highest level, and there is no better pure striker in the world.

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"In that position, that job — Harry — he is untouchable," France goalkeeper and former Tottenham teammate Hugo Lloris, now with Major League Soccer's LAFC, told me.

It feels unfair in that sense to speak of the curse, even more harsh to judge Kane on his trophy drought. But since when was soccer, and the way we talk about it, fair?

Perhaps no player in world soccer deserves a triumph more — or needs it more. Not necessarily for validation, but to scratch the itch. And, finally, to end the discussion.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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