It was the ultimate question for us ahead of the Champions League final: Harry Kane or no Harry Kane?
The England captain had been out of action for more than a month and, in that time, we staged a memorable comeback against Ajax, where hat-trick hero Lucas Moura stole the show.
Indeed, at the time of the team sheets being revealed, some were quick to criticise Pochettino for making such a call – and those claims went on throughout the night.
But life is all about not having regrets. And leaving your star player on the bench when he’s supposedly fully-fit would have been the ultimate regret for Mauricio Pochettino.
Can you imagine the what-if scenarios had we lost without the main man up top? Opting to start with Kane and having the likes of Dele Alli and Heung Min-Son make runs off him seemed like a very good plan.
And put simply, Kane didn’t exactly have a terrible game – he was just well marshalled by the most expensive defender in the world, Virgil van Dijk. But in the moments he was alive, he was heavily involved in the build-up play for creating two chances for a misfiring Son, and had the South Korean buried either of those opportunities like he’s been doing for us this season, then there really wouldn’t have been any questions surrounding Kane’s inclusion.
Indeed, speaking after the game, the Argentine was adamant that he had made the right call despite the end result. He said (via The Independent):
“I promise, my decision involved a lot of analytics, all of the information. I don’t regret my decision.”
Of course, the whole argument will be that Pochettino would hardly admit to making a mistake; but Kane represents something even more than just being one of the world’s best strikers. Picking him in the starting line-up would have been a major boost to the rest of the guys in the line-up, seeing their talisman ready and raring to go for the side’s biggest game in history.
By starting him from the off, Pochettino’s hope would’ve been that the 25-year-old might have found it easier to get used to the rhythm of the game. Bringing him off the bench in a game as intense as a European cup final may just have completely bypassed him. Kane has been our best player over a number of seasons now, and having him in the team would have struck Jurgen Klopp’s men with a bit of fear. The Reds would likely have built their defensive game-plan around having to deal with Lucas’ pace in-behind; seeing Kane on the team sheet just before they headed out of the tunnel would have raised the tension up a notch.
Pochettino took the big gamble and dared to start with an evidently less than 100% Harry Kane. Whilst the ending may not have proven him right, we simply would have regretted it for the rest of our lives if Kane wasn’t in from the start. The right move, just the wrong, heart-breaking result.