Within the German football bubble, there has been only one story of note in recent months. Even when Bayern Munich paid more than £40 million to sign South Korean defender Kim Min-jae, it was just a brief sideshow to the main event, and the main man: Harry Kane.
“The media attention on Bayern is always the biggest,” says Tobi Altschäffl, the chief reporter for Sport Bild in Germany. “With Harry Kane it is even bigger. There has really been no other topic this summer.”
Kane is set to become the most expensive player in Bundesliga history and that title, combined with his goalscoring record in England, means the expectations of him are enormous. Kane is no stranger to pressure but, at club level at least, he has surely never experienced it as intensive and sustained as this.
For a team like Bayern – dubbed FC Hollywood in the 90s amid the media frenzy around star names and a merry-go-round of coaches – the expectation is not simply to retain the league trophy. It is to win every trophy, every year, and Kane has been chosen as the man to lead them to those glories. It is what Bayern fans want, and indeed what German football expects. “Everybody thinks Bayern have to win the Champions League with Harry Kane,” says Patrick Strasser, a reporter who covers Bayern. “Those expectations are there.”
In many ways, Kane’s arrival in Germany is about more than Bayern. The 30-year-old will instantly become the new face of the league, the most recognisable player in the division and the global star of the show.
“One friend of mine asked me for a bet,” says Altschäffl. “He is betting that Kane will score more than 40 goals in his first Bundesliga season. That is how high the expectations are, that he is going to be the new big star of the Bundesliga, not just for Bayern Munich. He is the successor to [Robert] Lewandowski.”
It will be fascinating to see, then, how the German supporters and press respond to Kane’s performances in the first few weeks of his Bayern career. It is a new league, a new language and a new culture for Kane, but that does not mean he will be given much time to adapt to his surroundings. If the goals do not flow from the start, one imagines that questions will soon be asked. After all, given his age, Kane has been bought for the here and now, rather than as a long-term project.
Kane is quite capable of handling those questions, of course. And while the expectations of him on the pitch are huge, the lifestyle in Munich is not as fevered as at some of the other leading clubs on the continent. When Kane wants to switch off from it all, he will be able to do so.
“This is what all the players who played here talk about,” says Strasser. “Life is quite easy, even for superstars, in Munich. It is not such a big place. People always laugh a little bit about the city, saying it is like a big village. You cannot compare it to Berlin or London.
“You can have an easy life with your family when you are at Bayern. When the players go to a restaurant, people are quiet and distant. They may ask for a photo but they do not run up to the players, screaming. It is relaxed. The players always really like that. Even if he goes into town, if he puts on sunglasses and a baseball cap, I don’t think many people will recognise him.”
Many Bayern players choose to live in the Grunwald area of Munich, which is described by local real estate company Riedel as a place where “business managers, successful entrepreneurs and stars from film and television reside in a density that is unique in Germany.” It is known as Bavaria’s answer to Hollywood.
It is also, Riedel claim, “one of the most lavish villa towns” in the country. Kane’s wife, Kate, is reported by German media to have been looking at properties in the area in recent weeks.
It sounds like a comfortable way of living and, on the pitch, Kane should feel at home in a team that is packed full of creative talent. Few squads in world football boast as much playmaking power as Bayern, who have Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala in their squad. Kane, we can assume, will not be short of service.
At Spurs, Kane has often been as much of a creator as a finisher. At Bayern, it already seems clear that his main focus will be on converting the chances that these rapid wingers and sharp thinkers can create for him.
The German champions need a killer in the box: last season, their top scorer in the league was Gnabry, who struck only 14 goals. In the previous campaign, Lewandowski had scored 35 goals in 34 league matches. Kane needs to focus on being Kane, but the annual numbers produced by Lewandowski (344 goals in 375 appearances for Bayern overall) will represent a benchmark of sorts.
Kane’s professionalism and lack of showy extravagance should help him settle. “He will be expected to behave not like he is the big star, but like he is one of the Bavarians,” says Altschäffl. “With his behaviour, he should fit in very well with Munich. Maybe he can wear leather trousers, go to Oktoberfest, have a beer and score on the pitch. That is what Bayern fans like, and what they expect.”