Pressure is a word that Harry Kane mentions frequently. It comes up when he talks about being on the pitch, and it sneaks into conversation occasionally when he discusses life off it. The sentiment looms large as he settles into Germany as Bayern Munich's newest striker, and perhaps defines the job for him.
"Bayern Munich have been … winning their league the last 11 years or so and [won] the Champions League a few years ago," Kane told CBS Sports. "There's an expectation to be winning every trophy that we're in."
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Kane showed up in Munich roughly a month ago as the team's true replacement for Robert Lewandowski, who left for FC Barcelona in July 2022 after scoring a monumental 344 goals in 375 games across all competitions during an eight year stint. After Sadio Mane failed to settle as the team's unorthodox attacker after arriving from Liverpool, and consequently departed for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, the team decided to recruit a more conventional option. And nobody is a more ideal successor to Lewandowski as a conventional striker than Kane. The England star boasted an impressive 280 goals in 435 games in all competitions for Tottenham Hotspur, and has wasted no time getting on the scoresheet in Germany with four goals in four Bundesliga games thus far.
The scoring streak has arguably been the smoothest part of Kane's transition to Munich. He admitted "a lot [has] been going on," as he's been back and forth to his native England a handful of times between the international break and the birth of his fourth child. His wife and children are still in London as they look for a home in Munich, which has been admittedly difficult for him.
"I think the hardest part is the part [is] being away from the family and not being able to see them and be with them for a little while, especially when they're so young and growing up so quick," he noted, but admitted this is thankfully only temporary.
Then there's the small thing of leaving his boyhood club Tottenham, where he was on the books since he was an 11-year-old in the academy. The end of his decades-long spell was expected, as he had only one year left on his contract and he and the team were moving in different directions. Tottenham eyed a rebuild, a project which did not suit a 30-year-old Kane in his late prime. A move away made sense, but it came with that ever-present pressure.
"I think the first few days were definitely a bit strange," Kane said. "Going into a new training ground, going into a new stadium, meeting new teammates, wearing a different kit, all these things were a totally new experience for me so definitely a little bit of that pressure and that butterflies you feel."
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The true pressure to perform begins on Wednesday, when Bayern begin their latest quest for Champions League glory in their group stage opener against Manchester United. There are easier opponents, but it might be a more favorable matchup than originally anticipated for Bayern. The team is unbeaten in the league so far and in addition to Kane's recent goalscoring exploits, he had five goals in 19 games against United during his time at Tottenham. United, by comparison, are in the bottom half of the Premier League table, which Kane has noticed.
"I'm someone who follows most football in general so [I'm] always watching the highlights of the games back in the Premier League," he said. "[The] Premier League is something I've been watching my whole life and will be watching the rest of my life and always keep an eye on it, so it's been good to watch."
He offers a hint at rooting interest -- "Tottenham have started the season well, which is great" -- but the upcoming fixture has allowed him to mix business with pleasure. He's quick not to underestimate United despite keeping a watchful gaze on their recent woes.
"It's going to be a tough game, first and foremost," he said. "They're in a little bit of a tricky patch at the moment but sometimes they're the most dangerous team to play against. They're always looking to fight back and get a big result, so we're just focused on playing against a really good team."
The objective for Wednesday is to set the tone as one of the teams to beat this season in the Champions League, especially with potentially difficult away days at Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen on the calendar.
"I think with all Champions League groups, you kind of just take it game by game and see where you're at," he said. "We have to start well. You always want to start your group well and get off to a good start and that sets up the rest of the competition."
The pressure to perform, especially in encounters like these, is the pressure Kane admits he chased when he moved from Tottenham to Bayern. He believes there's room for improvement in about every aspect of his game, and is at times meticulous. He recently inked a lifetime footwear deal with Skechers, worth $108 million per The Athletic, as the brand aims to corner its share of the soccer cleat market. He said Skechers reached out several months ago and allowed him to have a say on the SKX_01, a custom pair of boots.
"They started to send me the boots and what they've been working on and I started to try them out and we went back and forth on just getting them perfect to suit me, the way I like my boot and we got to a really good place."
Kane places a lot of emphasis on personal growth and goals, but he eventually gets at the one thing everyone is desperate for him to admit. He craves team accolades, and seems to equate the pursuit of them with an almost overwhelming sense of pressure. He said as much earlier this month when comparing his old club to his new one: "Of course we wanted to win things at Spurs but if you went a couple of games without winning then it wasn't a disaster," he said, per The Independent. "The feeling at Bayern is that you have to win every game. We won the first two games 4-0 and 3-1 and there was still talk about not being too happy about the way we played."
He was far more polite, but still fairly blunt, this time around.
"Whether it's scoring more goals or getting more assists, defensively being better," Kane said. "Of course I want to score as many goals as I can and get as many assists as I can and ultimately I want to win as many team trophies as I can."
Kane said he's always had that inclination, and that his ambitions are matched at Bayern, where they hope to contend in every tournament they play in. He also concedes that that sense of competitiveness is not exactly unique, especially in European competition -- "to be honest, there's not many teams that go into the Champions League without trying to win it."
The England star projects optimism at the start of a new period in his career, but Kane has made a big bet by virtually designating his spell at Bayern as a pass/fail assignment. That comes with its own pressure to actually deliver, particularly in European competition. Bayern and Kane are good enough to do it, but at this stage of time, there's still a level of uncertainty at how much success he will enjoy in Germany.
Take Kane's word for it. "I'm the type of person [where] there's always something you can get better at and there's always ways to get better so that'll be my mindset for the rest of my career," he said, "but time will tell."
How To Watch
- When: Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at 3 p.m. ET
- Where: Allianz Arena
- Online Streaming: Paramount+