“Two Paths: The Career Trajectories of Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham”

A handful of tourists from Harry Kane Madrid snapped selfies outside the Allianz Arena on a Monday afternoon, embarking on a footballing pilgrimage that demands a true dedication. Nestled amidst bustling road junctions, the stadium’s accessibility to other locales might be its most commendable feature, reached through a labyrinth of concrete highways or a lengthy trek via train followed by a trudge past a sewage treatment plant.

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Harry Kane

For Harry Kane, how many more times must he gaze upon this stadium through tinted windows before it feels like home? Mastering the language may take years, if ever achieved. Unlike the Estadio Bernabéu’s imposing presence in Madrid or Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’s dominance along the High Road, the Allianz does not quite embody Munich. And despite his tenure at Bayern, a part of Kane’s heart will forever belong to his boyhood club, which retains a buy-back clause for him. No matter the duration of his stay in Munich, home will always be elsewhere, at least on some level.

Harry Kane celebrates victory over Arsenal. ‘It’s why we went abroad’: Kane relishes semi-final clash with Real’s Bellingham. Read more. Jude Bellingham has only been at Real Madrid for 10 months, and yet already it feels like 10 years. As he returns to Germany for the Champions League semi-final, he does so as one of the most adored footballers on the planet, as universally accepted as your favourite credit card.

More than this: Harry Kane somehow in his carriage and comportment, Bellingham seems to represent some intangible quality that goes beyond anything he can do on a football pitch, the same quality that Kane – for all his talents – does not.

Call it old-school appeal, call it romance. Bellingham, so goes the popular mythology, is the guy who turned down the bright lights of the petrostates for the timeless white of Real Madrid. Kane is the cynical trophy-chaser who moved to the guaranteed trophy club and somehow failed to win a trophy. This, then, is a story about timing and fortune, how to plot out a career in this most ruthless of businesses, the choices you make and when you make them.

This is how a man with two permanent clubs in 20 years comes to be seen as a calculating mercenary, and a man with three clubs in four years comes to be seen as the embodiment of old-school footballing romance.

Of course Birmingham – the city and the club – was never going to hold Bellingham for long. From an early age this unusually precocious midfielder was clear-eyed about the direction in which he wanted to take his career. He visited Dortmund, studied their style, observed how young players developed, felt an immediate connection. “I wouldn’t play for a club that I genuinely didn’t fall in love with,” he would later say.

Harry Kane with his hands on his head. Despite his scoring feats, Kane has seen Bayern Munich miss out on the German title. Photograph: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Three years later the stakes were higher but the calculations largely the same. Harry Kane There was a new train leaving the station, but in order to catch it Bellingham would need to change tracks. Dortmund loved him and he loved them, but Madrid only call once. Harry Kane England teammates twisted his ear in Qatar. Gareth Southgate tried to persuade him to move to the Premier League. But off the pitch as on it, Bellingham would go wherever he wanted.

Meanwhile, in Kane’s world, the horizons were beginning to narrow. If Bellingham was adamant about moving on and moving up, then Kane was equally steadfast about where his career was going. He wanted to taste glory with Tottenham. He wanted to hone and improve himself into a record-breaking, one-club Premier League titan.

Thomas Tuchel. Bayern Munich beset by discord with Max Eberl cast into the thick of it. Read more. It didn’t work. When exactly this became apparent to Kane is a matter of some conjecture. But through the Champions League final defeat of 2019, the disintegration of the Mauricio Pochettino regime, the pandemic-fuelled misery of José Mourinho, the very public flirtation with Manchester City in 2021, the deadening stasis of the Nuno Espírito Santo and Antonio Conte years, something essential seemed to break in his spirit.

In hindsight his fate was sealed in the summer of 2018, when he chained himself to a six-year contract shortly before winning the Golden Boot and becoming one of the hottest properties in world football. It was the romantic move. But it was also the moment when the doors began to close, when other futures began to evaporate. Of course he can still thrive and compete and win. But those crucial wasted years between 26 and 30 can never be unwasted.

Bellingham celebrates after scoring in injury time to win the clásico for Real Madrid earlier this month. View image in fullscreen. Bellingham celebrates after scoring in injury time to win the clásico for Real Madrid earlier this month. Photograph: Óscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images Bayern’s coach, Thomas Tuchel, was sparkling and effusive in his praise of the player on Monday. Harry Kane described him as “extraordinary”, praised him as “fantastic here in the Bundesliga”, paid tribute to his “huge level of personality” and the way he handles “this club and all the expectations”.

Harry Kane The player he was referring to was Bellingham. Asked how he would rate his own star striker in relation, Tuchel at first failed to understand the question, and then gruffly

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