The news that Harry Kane wants out at Tottenham couldn’t have come as a surprise, but finding a clean solution won’t be so simple.
It was the news that everybody at Tottenham or who supports the club must have been dreading, but it can hardly have come as a surprise. Harry Kane had made clear earlier in the season that he wouldn’t necessarily want to continue at Tottenham if the club failed to qualify for the 2021–22 Champions League. Spurs are not mathematically out of the race yet, but it would take unexpected collapses from both Chelsea and Liverpool in their final two games for Tottenham to finish in the top four, and so, on Monday, came the reports that Kane had told the club he wants to leave.
It is not just the prospect of losing the England captain, a player who has scored 165 Premier League goals over the past eight seasons, that should worry Tottenham. It’s what Kane symbolizes. He came through Tottenham’s youth ranks. Other than some loan spells when he was developing as a player, he has never played for anybody else. He embodies the modern ambitious club, the side that got to the Champions League final under Mauricio Pochettino and had the self-confidence to build a state-of-the-art new stadium. With the departures of the likes of Kyle Walker, Christian Eriksen and Kieran Trippier, the process has already begun, but if Kane leaves, it would feel like a return to the old Spurs, when they couldn’t hold onto their best players.
But the situation is perhaps more complex than it may at first appear. Kane’s frustration is understandable. He turns 28 in July and has so far won nothing in his career. It’s entirely natural that somebody of his talents would want not only to land some silverware but to test themselves against the very best—not just as an outsider but as a member of the elite. He should be playing regular Champions League football.
His problem is that he is three years into a six-year contract signed at the height of Pochettino-era optimism. Spurs are under no pressure to sell and chairman Daniel Levy is notoriously stubborn in such cases. Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modrić and Gareth Bale all had to battle to leave, in some cases effectively threatening to go on strike. How badly behaved, really, would Kane be prepared to act toward a club that has nurtured him, where he remains loved? A sulking Kane is still likely to score 20 goals a season.
And yet selling for a huge fee may not be the worst idea. This is a Tottenham squad that requires rejuvenation and has ever since before Pochettino left. The move to the new stadium, for all the opportunities it should open up once pandemic restrictions are relaxed, has severely reduced funds available for investment in the squad. So tight is money at Tottenham, in fact, that the club last year had to apply for an emergency loan from the Bank of England.
Tottenham has been burned in similar situations before, effectively wasting the Bale windfall after his move to Real Madrid, but if Kane could be sold for over £100 million, then the arrival of four or five promising young talents would probably be what the squad demands.
And that perhaps is the key factor. Who might pay £100 million or more for a player who will be 28 at the start of next season? All across Europe, belts are being tightened. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Juventus are all heavily in debt. Chelsea, Manchester City or, perhaps, Manchester United could afford him, and Pochettino would welcome him to Paris Saint-Germain, but even if a club did think a nine-figure transfer was worth it in the present climate, the likelihood is it would go for a younger star whose benefit will be longer-term: think Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappé or Jadon Sancho. Were Mbappé to leave PSG, that could perhaps open a pathway for Kane to rejoin Pochettino, but, given Inter’s financial problems, Romelu Lukaku may also be available, and has the advantage of being able to speak French and having proven his adaptability to different leagues. It is being reported, too, that Kane prefers to stay in England.
It may be that Levy finds himself in a strong position. He can listen to Kane, accept his concerns and agree to sell if a certain price is met by, say, the end of July. If it is met, he can then go on a spree picking up young talent, prices reduced by the fallout of the pandemic. If it is not, then he has been fair to Kane and will still have his best player at the club next season ready to go again under a new manager.
And that, really, is the biggest issue. With an inspirational coach and some new investment in players, the situation at Tottenham could rapidly be transformed and Kane could find belief and motivation returning. Or the fee he raises could fund a new generation. But, really, it all depends on getting in the right manager.
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