Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Mo Salah close in on Ronaldo landmark

Harry Kane has scored 11 goals in 10 games in 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 02 March 2018

Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Mo Salah close in on Ronaldo landmark

LONDON: Harry Kane’s prolific goalscoring has made comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo commonplace, and he now stands on the brink of a feat not seen in English football since the Portuguese departed for Real Madrid a decade ago.
Ronaldo was the last player to score 40 goals in a season for an English club when he hit 42 on his way to winning the Ballon d’Or and a league and Champions League double for Manchester United in 2007/08.
Kane is yet to win such illustrious honors, but is on course for a third straight Premier League golden boot after netting his 35th goal of the campaign late on to win a vital three points for Tottenham at Crystal Palace last weekend.
Next in his firing line are Huddersfield at Wembley on Saturday before another chance to further his burgeoning reputation on the continent in Wednesday’s massive Champions League last 16, second leg against Juventus.
“I know I’m in good form,” Kane said after scoring his 11th goal in 10 games in 2018.
“I set myself little targets and I’m going quicker than I expected to this season. I’ve got 35 now, so I just have to keep scoring goals.”
However, Kane is not alone in the race to follow Ronaldo into the 40-goal club.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has already matched Luis Suarez’s best ever tally at Anfield with 31 goals in all competitions and is just one behind Kane’s 24 in the race to be the league’s top scorer.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has 30 in all competitions and outstrips Kane and Salah for goals per minute in the Premier League for his 21.
The fact all three surpassed the 30-goal mark before March points to a trend of a more unbalanced top flight than the norm in England.
A chasm of 25 points separate Spurs in fourth and Huddersfield in 14th.
Indeed, the gulf between the top six and the rest is symbolized by Burnley still sitting in seventh despite not having won in 11 matches stretching back to Dec. 12.
That shouldn’t diminish the scale of the achievement, though, particularly in the case of Kane, who has had to carry a greater burden than his rivals for the golden boot.
Salah was part of Liverpool’s “fab four” before Philippe Coutinho’s January departure and is still backed up ably by Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in a front three that have combined for 66 goals this season.
Aguero has even had to fight for his place in the side ahead of Gabriel Jesus such is the competition for places in a free-scoring City side with the League Cup already in the bag and the Premier League almost certain to follow.
After Kane only Son Heung-Min has got into double figures for Spurs this season as Dele Alli’s form has dipped, whilst until his FA Cup hat-trick against third-tier Rochdale on Wednesday, Fernando Llorente had scored just two goals as Kane’s deputy up front.
When City boss Pep Guardiola called Spurs “the Harry Kane” team earlier in the campaign, Mauricio Pochettino reacted angrily.
However, it is hard to overestimate the influence of his 17 goals in Tottenham’s 16-game unbeaten run since being thrashed at the hands of City in December.
Thanks to Kane, Pochettino’s men have hit top form at the right time in their quest to qualify for next season’s Champions League and reach the last eight of this year’s competition.
Another victory on Saturday would crucially open up a five-point lead on fifth-placed Chelsea, who face a daunting trip to City on Sunday.

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”