José Mourinho has said Harry Kane will start Tottenham’s Europa League game at Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday, despite his team’s 2-0 advantage, but urged Gareth Southgate to “protect” the centre-forward in England’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Mourinho hopes for a “compromise” over Kane’s involvement in England’s games against San Marino, Albania and Poland, although he chose his words carefully. Tottenham’s manager lost Son Heung-min, who has played a high number of matches, to a hamstring injury during the 2-1 defeat at Arsenal on Sunday and it is a matter of record that Kane has sustained various knocks since the end of January. Mourinho will not take the risk of resting him against Dinamo, arguing that the last-16 tie remains in the balance.
“Is Harry going to play tomorrow or is he going to rest?” Mourinho said. “I answer already that he’s going to play. The game is open, it’s an important game for us and so he plays.
“I would love all my players to go [on international duty] because I love them to be involved … it’s a question of pride for them and a plus for us, as a club. If we could choose, we wouldn’t like the players to play three matches but it’s not in our hands. It’s in the hands of their national team managers.
“I cannot do Gareth’s work in the same way Gareth is not trying to do my work. He does what he wants, what’s best for the team. He has a good relationship with Harry so that means good communication and, without me in the middle, I hope that in between them they can find some compromise to protect the player a little bit.”
It is unlikely Son will be back for the Premier League game at Aston Villa on Sunday, in which case Mourinho will not make the forward available for South Korea against Japan in Yokohama next Thursday.
Mourinho, who is without the suspended Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in Zagreb, will welcome back Giovani Lo Celso to the squad after a three-month hamstring injury lay-off. “The team needs him because he’s a quality player and he’s also very competitive,” Mourinho said. “He will help some players, he will scare others and I think we need that.”
Mourinho was criticised for a negative approach at Arsenal but he said he would not go to Zagreb to protect Tottenham’s lead. “I don’t feel it’s game over. The way to approach it is to think that we still have a match to play and to get a positive result. If we qualified with a defeat, I would not be happy.”
Mourinho said he was not willing to share his analysis of shortcomings against Arsenal but he did discuss the referee, Michael Oliver, whose controversial penalty award led to the winning goal.
“A very bad referee decision but let me make it very clear that, for me, Michael is a good referee and, in spite of me normally being very unlucky with him, I have no problem [with him] at all … at all … to have him my referee in my next match … at all,” Mourinho said.
“He’s a good player [referee], an honest guy, he’s just unlucky with his decisions. For me, one of the best refs in the Premier League and in European football. I want to make it very clear that it was a decision that decided the game but I have nothing against the quality and honesty of the referee.”