Jose Mourinho has responded with an impassioned defence of his influence on strikers amid criticism that his playing style will not bring out the best of Harry Kane at Tottenham.
Kane made his first appearance as Spurs drew 1-1 with Manchester United on Friday, but pundit Paul Merson questioned whether the Portuguese would enable the England captain to produce his best.
Mourinho said it was “phenomenal” that Kane had managed to play the full 90 minutes on his return from injury and his importance to the team was proven again during the match.
“I feel a bit strange about some analysis and some comments. The beginning of some comments and analysis started from Paul [Merson],” said Mourinho.
“I have to say I respect people a lot like him and because I respect him a lot I want to be nice in my answer. I try to be nice and I try just to say something where people can think a little a bit.
“First of all, Harry played his first game for six months and if you watch the game and you analyse the game, compare Harry Kane with Anthony Martial.
“Was it a game of many chances? Was it a game where the two strikers had a lot of chances? Do you give credit to my defence for Martial’s game? Do you give credit to United’s defence and for the occasions we created or we didn’t create? I think you have to look at it in a balanced approach.
In a defiant four-minute defence, Mourinho insisted Kane, who scored seven goals in 10 appearances prior to suffering a torn hamstring on New Year’s Day, would have “no problems” to be effective as he listed the scoring records of his previous strikers during his managerial career.
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“In our case, Harry doesn’t play a game for six months,” he added. “The record of goals that Harry has with me is easy for you. You just look go to your data and it is easy to see how many matches Harry played with me before his injury and how many goals he scored.
“I can say that I had a few strikers that played for me and they are not bad. I had one guy called [Didier] Drogba. He played for me [over] four seasons. He scored 186 goals which gives an average of 46 goals per season (sic 187 games, 73 goals).
“I had one guy that is not also bad – he [Ronaldo] plays for Juventus now. He played for me [during] three seasons. He scored 168 goals, which gives an average of 56 goals per season.
“I had another guy who is not also bad called Karim Benzema. He played for me [during] three seasons. He was not always starting because he was quite young at that time. But he scored for me 78 goals in three season which gives a 26-goal average per season.
“I had another one called [Diego] Milito. He played one season for me [and] he scored 30 goals. He won three titles and of course the average is 30 [per season].
“I had another guy that played for me [over] one and a half seasons. I say one and half because in the other half he had a big injury. A tall guy called Zlatan [Ibrahimovic]. He played one and a half seasons. He scored 58 goals which gives a 29-goal average per season.
“So, dear Paul, I have lots of respect for you. [But] I think Harry Kane has no problems at all to score goals in my teams. Especially when he is fit, fresh, when he has routines of playing. So, that is my message to somebody that I have lots of respect for.”
So what did Merson actually say?
I think he’ll have a serious think at the end of the season, I really do. I don’t see him getting 25-30 goals next season with the way Jose will want to play.
Paul Merson on Harry Kane
“When Jose took the job I worried for Harry Kane,” Merson told Soccer Saturday.
“He played under Pochettino and Tottenham sort of had a go wherever they went. There were goals, there were crosses, there were shots.
“[But now] he’s going to be playing up front on his own and it is going to be hard work. In the end he’s trying to hit 60-yard passes just to be involved in the game. That’s not Harry Kane.
“He’s not fit. He’s definitely not fit. They played with virtually 10 men.
“I think he’ll have a serious think at the end of the season, I really do. I don’t see him getting 25-30 goals next season with the way Jose will want to play.
“And Jose won’t want to play like he did when he first got in there and it was 4-2 and 5-3, no way. He’ll like those games like Friday night, 1-1.”
Watch Tottenham vs West Ham from 8pm live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League on Tuesday; Kick-off is 8.15pm