It was a familiar story for Tottenham and Harry Kane, as they lost a third cup final in the last six years.
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One of Spurs’ greatest generations may not have a trophy to show for it, and the same can be said for one of their greatest-ever players, Harry Kane.
Even if they had won the League Cup it would have only papered over the gaping, obvious cracks of squad mismanagement and turmoil behind-the-scenes.
But still, now that Spurs have stopped progressing and have stalled, some silverware would have been nice for this group of players to show for their efforts during this close to golden generation.
In Sunday’s final Tottenham were dominated by Manchester City but hung in there and only lost 1-0 to a late goal from Aymeric Laporte, but it was a similar feeling for Tottenham, and for Kane, who clearly wasn’t fully fit after his ankle injury.
Close but no cigar, again, for Spurs.
What now for Tottenham?
After firing Jose Mourinho earlier this week, then the huge fan uproar over Daniel Levy leading Tottenham into the European Super League and then pulling them out, it has been a tough few weeks, and months, for Spurs.
They are now at a huge crossroads as following their shock Europa League exit, their Champions League hopes hinge on an unlikely top four finish and Harry Kane’s future is in doubt.
This feels like a pivotal moment in Spurs’ project as the likes of Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Heung-min Son and, the leader, Harry Kane, could all easily move on this summer.
After leading Spurs to the promised land of the new stadium, there is now a clear lack of ambition. It is as if this group of players have hit the expensively assembled glass ceiling, next to the Champagne bar, they worked so hard for the club to build.
The sign of Kane, 27, looking wistfully into the distance at the end of a cup final or at the end of a season, while we question his fitness status, is now becoming an all too familiar sight. League Cup final in 2015. Champions League final in 2019. League Cup final in 2021. Rinse. Repeat.
How much longer can Kane hang around to see if Tottenham can get over the line?
0 – Harry Kane didn't attempt a shot or create a single chance for Spurs in today's League Cup final, the first time he's done neither while playing more than 45 minutes in a game since September 2018, versus Inter Milan in the Champions League. Spotlight. #CarabaoCupFinal pic.twitter.com/3EPVKrK1cA
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 25, 2021
Kane holds the key to Spurs’ future.
If he stays the project can be rebuilt, if they get the right manager, but there are a lot of ifs there for Tottenham.
Interim boss Ryan Mason, 29, summed it up best when speaking to our partners in the UK at Sky Sports after the League Cup final defeat.
“[Man] City are probably four or five years ahead of us. They’ve had a manager for such a long time and they’ve worked a certain way for such a long time,” Mason said. “Going forward my idea, and I’m sure it is everyone’s idea for Tottenham, is to be brave and try and dominate games like they do. It is a process. It takes time.”
It feels like time has run out for this cycle of players at Tottenham, and it is time for a new project to begin.
Kane needs to be around to give them the best chance of success, of course, but Levy now needs to get his next managerial choice correct, just like he did with Mauricio Pochettino.
The new manager, whoever he is, needs to be brave and bold again, just like most of this team was seven years ago when Poch put it together. They aren’t brave or bold anymore and the weight of not living up to expectations is clear for all to see.
Tottenham’s tag as the nearly team will live on for at least another 12 months.
Right now it is tough to see Kane, and many others, being around to shake that tag off and change how history looks at them.
Close. But no cigar.