Pep Guardiola could be forgiven for breathing a huge sigh of relief on Tuesday night. Imagine if he’s paid £160m for a striker to fit in alongside Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and John Stones who had served up the performance Harry Kane produced at Wembley.
For once, the England captain carried his club form into his international game – and that has to get Gareth Southgate thinking, too.
Although the England manager refused after the game to answer the question that is slowly rearing its head.
Should Kane still be an automatic choice when it comes to the opening game of the 2022 World Cup?
“We’ve got competition for places in every position on the pitch and we need that,” Southgate said instead. “I remember when I first took over, we didn’t have Harry for the first couple of camps.
“We do need that competition. There have been a lot of occasions where players have been playing at their very best and different occasions when players might be going through dips.”
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Dominic Calvert-Lewin, when fit, has never let England down and Mason Greenwood is likely to be involved next month against Albania and San Marino.
But it is Marcus Rashford – back scoring after surgery in a behind-closed-doors game with Manchester United – who is best equipped to challenge Kane for his position.
He turns 24 later this month and that is the age when Kane’s international career really caught alight with a string of goals starting against Scotland and France that led all the way to the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot.
His 12 goals for England before his 24th birthday compare favourably to Kane’s eight.
And next month is an important one to have a front line that is really firing on all cylinders.
Southgate knows he needs to find more invention going forward if England are to be a real force in international football and, for all its failings on Tuesday, is clearly keen to try playing Foden and Grealish again with fully-functioning attackers in front of them.
It is playing your best players versus creating the proper balance for the team.
“That’s something we’ve got right over a long period of time and it’ll be one of the things that I reflect upon after the game,” Southgate said.
“Without a doubt, the balance of a team is always crucial and we have to say we didn’t create the positive effect.
“We were too open and we were a little bit more open without the ball.”
Qatar is now 13 months away.