‘One of our own’: how and why Germany has taken to Harry Kane

The Tottenham fans celebrated Harry Kane as “one of our own”. After his first season at Bayern Munich, in which he scored an incredible 44 goals in 45 appearances for the Bundesliga giants, the question arises: has Kane also become one of Germany’s own?

The expectations around Kane after his £100m switch from London to Bavaria were enormous. Following the striker’s first game, against RB Leipzig in the German Supercup, Max Eberl, Leipzig’s sports director at the time and now fulfilling the same role at Bayern, said: “I think it’s almost too much that Harry Kane is being burdened with here. It’s like a messiah walking on water.” To an extent it was – with the 30-year-old failing to help Bayern win a single trophy last season, in turn meaning they failed to win the Bundesliga for the first time in 12 years.

Kane’s title curse well and truly came to the fore, leading to much ridicule back in England, but in Germany he has earned sympathy from fans. There was recognition across the entire country for him becoming only the third Bundesliga player to win the “Golden Shoe” for Europe’s top scorer. Only Gerd Müller (1970 and 1972) and Robert Lewandowski (2021 and 2022) have previously achieved this feat.

In general Bundesliga fans are proud that Kane chose Germany. He is already, undeniably, one of their own.

The Bayern teammate: Jamal Musiala

A word Musiala frequently uses when describing Kane is “humble” – and he says it in English, the 21-year-old leaning on the eight years he spent in England, at Southampton and Chelsea. Musiala has to think for a moment about the question of how much Kane has integrated in Germany. “Punctuality is a German trait, but that comes naturally to Harry,” says the midfielder. “Harry has definitely settled in, he is sure of that. Especially after his family moved to Germany during the winter break.

“I think he really likes German food in particular,” Musiala says before listing Kane’s favourite dishes in the Bayern canteen: schnitzel, pretzels, pretzel bread with salami. “He likes pretzel bread best.” Maybe that says a lot about Kane: he is the top earner at Bayern with a salary of €24m a year and yet his favourite food costs only 90 cents at the bakery. These are the stories that Germans love.

England have often struggled in tournaments abroad. Does Musiala believe Kane’s “home advantage” can help in that regard at the European Championship? “Harry is very enthusiastic about the atmosphere in German stadiums,” he says. “I think England can benefit from the experience [at the Euros].”

The Bayern predecessor: Giovane Élber

Giovane Élber played for Bayern from 1997 to 2003, scoring 92 goals in 169 games in the Bundesliga. In his final season at the club, the Brazilian became top scorer in the division for the first time with 21 goals. Kane scored 36 times in the league at the first time of asking. “That’s crazy,” says Élber. “I never thought he would integrate so quickly. In the end I was convinced he could even break Lewandowski’s record of 41 [league] goals. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. But Harry still has time for that.”

Élber is convinced that Kane has the potential to become, like him, a longstanding favourite among Bayern fans. “When I meet Harry at the training centre, I immediately notice how respectful he treats every employee. It’s the same with the fans,” says the 51-year-old, now an ambassador for Bayern. “That is also reflected on the pitch. He’s not feeling too good for anything. He is not the typical centre-forward who just waits for the ball; he helps everywhere on the pitch. This is a very German trait. That’s exactly why he found acceptance in the team so quickly.”

How does Élber see Kane performing at the Euros in Germany? “I’m in favour of having more Brazilians in the Bayern team again,” jokes Élber. “But of course I’ll be happy to keep my fingers crossed for Harry as a Bayern striker.”

Fans queue to go on stage during Harry Kane’s visit to the Bayern Munich supporters’ club in Kirchweidach. Photograph: Frank Bauer/The Guardian

The Bayern supporter: Johannes Kirchner

Bayern gave away visits from their players to fanclubs last Christmas. The Kirchweidach branch won Kane and recorded the visit in a specially printed 112-page book called: KANEweidach. “We’ve heard a lot about players like [Franck] Ribéry who wanted to go home after two hours,” says club board member Johannes Kirchner. “Harry, on the other hand, stayed even longer than agreed.”

The supporters let Kane compete in Bavarian competitions including beer mug pushing and nail racing. “He really wanted to win,” Kirchner says. What he also remembers is a faux pas; Kane named the lion as his favourite animal. This is, of all things, the mascot of Bayern’s city-rival 1860 Munich. There were brief boos. Kane quickly changed his mind to dog.

“Harry may not have fully arrived in Bavaria yet, but he’s definitely in the hearts of the fans,” says Kirchner. “That’s why the Kirchweidach fanclub will also support him at the Euros. We will be England fans unless it’s against Germany,” Kirchner says. “After all, Kane is an honorary member of ours.”

The Bayern bus driver: Michael Lauerbach

Michael Lauerbach has been driving the Bayern team bus for 18 years. He was born in Munich and Kane has problems deciphering his Bavarian pronunciation. A few words are enough, however, for them to have a good understanding.

“Harry is always very friendly,” says Lauerbach, known to everyone at Bayern as Michi. “To his teammates, to everyone in the coaching team, to the entire staff and to the fans, for whom he takes a lot of time.

“So far he hasn’t asked me about tips on German traffic,” says Lauerbach, adding that Kane is as calm on the team bus as he is on the pitch. “Harry sits pretty far back, next to Jamal Musiala,” he says.

Uli Köhler has been reporting on Bayern since 1974. He met Kane during his initial days in Munich, during a sponsorship shoot. “Harry seemed really amazed at what a player has to do in Germany. The day was packed with TV interviews, sponsor videos and photoshoots,” says Köhler. “But Harry always kept his smile, even though I can imagine that he was probably annoyed inside.”

Köhler has witnessed Kane wear leather trousers for a photoshoot for a Bayern beer sponsor and seen Thomas Müller explain to him how to properly make a Bavarian white sausage for another sponsor’s video. “Kane mastered that and drank his wheat beer well, even though he is obviously not a beer drinker,” Köhler says. “He doesn’t show any airs at all, which is well received by everyone.”

The TV man wishes the striker good luck for the European Championship for a special reason: “Kane has all my sympathies,” says Köhler. “His game makes up for the cruel style Gareth Southgate plays.”

Harry Kane celebrates after scoring against Borussia Dortmund – the striker scored 44 goals in 45 appearances during his first season at Bayern Munich. Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

The politician: Lars Klingbeil

Lars Klingbeil is chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and at Kane’s first Bundesliga game in Bremen, happened to be sitting next to his brother Charlie and father, Pat.

“So far, Harry Kane has fulfilled all the expectations that were hoped for with this transfer,” says Klingbeil, who also has a seat on Bayern’s administrative advisory board. “He leads the way on the pitch and he is also an absolute asset to Bayern and the Bundesliga off the pitch with his down-to-earth attitude and professionalism.”

Klingbeil believes Kane has integrated rapidly into Germany thanks to his personality. “His honest work and his humble nature suit us very well,” says the 46-year-old. When it comes to the Euros, Klingbeil is divided. “I always follow England because they play great football,” he says. “The only important thing is that Germany scores one more goal than Harry Kane does in the final.”

The hotel manager: Dominik G Reiner

Dominik G Reiner was director of Munich’s five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel when Kane resided in its 120 sq metre Bavaria Suite. Reiner, who is now the hotel’s director in Zurich, found Kane to be one of the most down-to-earth guests he had ever experienced in the hotel. “He went in and out like a normal guest, ate breakfast, visited the restaurants, and absolutely without any star airs,” Reiner says.

Reiner had the feeling that Kane felt at home in the hotel and generally settled well in Munich. “The lederhosen suited him very well,” he says. “When Harry celebrates the championship with Bayern next year and gets the traditional wheat-beer shower on the pitch – most likely administered by Thomas Müller – then he will have fully arrived in Bavaria.”

Reiner will support Kane at the Euros, saying: “The dream of me and the Mandarin Oriental team is that England plays against Germany in the final. And while I hope that in the end the hosts lift the trophy into the Berlin night sky, we hope that Harry becomes top scorer.”

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