Could Jamie Vardy's England retirement be cut short in Harry Kane's potential absence? | Euro 2020 Watch
It's often hard to believe that Harry Kane is just 26 years of age. With an astonishing return of 136 goals scored in just over 200 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur, the 26-year-old has established himself as one of the most clinical strikers on the planet and could potentially break some long-standing records.
The English captain has been one of the standout players for Gareth Southgate and England as well. He is certain to lead the Three Lions from the front as they vie for continental glory at the UEFA Euro 2020. With a bonafide superstar such as Kane among their ranks, England are the favourites to top their group and make their way deep into the knockout stages of the tournament.
That being said, what if there occurs a scenario where England's star man is ruled out of the tournament?
If newly-appointed Spurs manager Jose Mourinho's frightening words anything to go by, that could very well be the case come June.
Kane, currently enduring a long spell on the sidelines after rupturing a tendon in his left hamstring in their defeat to Southampton on New Year's Day. In a press conference on Tuesday, Mourinho gave both the English and Spurs faithful a damning response when asked about Kane's injury. He said,
“News on Harry (Kane) we don’t have and if you ask me every time we come here the answer will be the same.
"We expect him to be out until, I don’t know, mid-April, end of April, May, next season I don’t know.
England are now left with what is a stressful wait to see if Kane can recover from his injury in time for the Euros. But replacing the World Cup 2018 Golden Boot winner is a herculean effort, something that both Mourinho and Southgate are tasked with achieving.
While the Portuguese along with Spurs chief Daniel Levy scramble to find an immediate replacement for Kane, the England coach is in a predicament of a slightly different nature.
Kane is arguably the most important player to the England national team setup alongside two-time Premier League winner Raheem Sterling. He leads the scoring charts for England's current generation with an astounding 32 strikes in just 45 games and is sure to go on and break Wayne Rooney's record of 53 goals for the Three Lions in 120 appearances.
Southgate now has to make the call that could define his team's journey come summer. Does he keep the faith and hope that his skipper recovers in time, or go into the tournament with another striker installed at the top and fully prepared to lead the English attack?
And if he does choose to opt for the latter, who among the host of English talents can step into their captain's boots?
There are several names being thrown into contention to replace the English #9, such as the likes of Tammy Abraham of Chelsea, Danny Ings of Southampton, and Marcus Rashford of Manchester United being the main candidates. All three forwards have been in spectacular form this season, with both Ings and Rashford tied with Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 14 league goals for the season and Abraham has scored just a goal lesser than the trio.
The ideal replacement for Harry Kane, though, could potentially be the only man who sits right at the top of the Premier League scoring charts this season - Leicester City's Jamie Vardy.
The Foxes' striker has been one of the most outstanding players in the league this season. Vardy has outscored all the abovementioned names and leads the charts with an incredible 17 goals in 20 games so far. The Englishman, who recently celebrated his 33rd birthday, retired from international football after an uneventful World Cup 2018 campaign on a personal level.
Vardy would provide England with something different to what they had in place during the presence of an intimidating frontman such as Kane. The Spurs man is a master of slotting the ball into the back of the net from nearly anywhere around the box and boasts an incredible technique. His aerial presence is unparalleled in the side and so is his ability to play the link-up role as the centre-forward, being able to hold off defenders with his brute strength.
Unlike Kane, Vardy could enable England to sit deeper against superior opposition and hurt them on the counter with an electric forward line featuring Sterling, Rashford, Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, and more. The former Fleetwood Town striker could be the tip of an England attack that could constantly look to get in behind defences and threaten to hit teams with breathtaking pace.
As far as goals are concerned, the former Premier League Golden Boot winner's numbers speak for themselves. Ageing like fine wine, Vardy has looked sharper than he did over the last couple of seasons and has been the most telling difference-maker in Leicester's quest for a top 4 finish. His attacking repertoire has been on full display with some exquisite finishes and lung-busting counter attacks.
Despite players such as Abraham, Rashford and Ings have all having superb seasons as well, the experience that Vardy brings to the table is what makes the difference along with a few other things. The former Premier League winner is an absolute nuisance to play against and can very easily rattle opposition defenders.
Furthermore, both World Cup 2018 and Euro 2016 winning sides France and Portugal have displayed the importance of discipline on the pitch, and more importantly, doggedness. Didier Deschamps' France were easily the most rigid side to break down in the World Cup wherein no player was spared from defensive responsibilities on the pitch.
Vardy could provide that burst of energy at the tip of England's attack, hounding opposition defences and capitalising on their errors while under pressure. He has an incredible engine and has the ability to press the opposition relentlessly, often forcing them to commit errors. With the likes of Sterling and Sancho supporting him, it could be a terrifying prospect. His tenacity and blistering pace could also provide his nation with a different dimension and Vardy could latch on to piercing long passes from the likes of Jordan Henderson in midfield.
The only major issue is whether or not the 33-year-old opts to re-enter the fray for the Three Lions. Although he has retired, the prospect of playing centrally in Kane's absence could tempt the striker.
Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers, however, seems to think it is unlikely that Vardy does cut his international retirement short. When asked about his star striker, the former Liverpool manager said,
"Jamie (Vardy) made his decision on that. He's always been clear and I don't see that changing to be honest,' said Rodgers. 'Sometimes when you go away internationally it's all the travelling and everything else around it.
It's given him a chance to refresh, spend some time with his family, do some work in isolation at the club and obviously when we start back he is fit and raring to go.
The question is not whether he can play for England. He can, there is no question. It is whether he wants to. I had initial chats on it with Jamie when I came in. But I'm not worrying about it or encouraging it."
Should Southgate manage to convince the Leicester striker to return to the English national team, he could potentially help ease the burden of Kane's loss for the tournament.
Jamie Vardy is undoubtedly England's best hope heading into Euro 2020 without their skipper. More importantly, he could perhaps have one final shot at doing the English shirt proud, much like the Leicester one before he calls curtains on an inspiring career.Published 15 Jan 2020, 03:11 IST