With less than four weeks to go until the summer transfer window closes on Aug. 31, the biggest deal has yet to get off the ground with England captain Harry Kane still at the centre of a battle between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
The 28-year-old, who is contracted to Spurs until the end of the 2023-24 season, has made it clear that he wants to leave to boost his prospects of winning major honours, and his failure to report back for training earlier this week has only served to highlight his determination to move on.
Spurs face City in their Premier League opener on Aug. 15, but the two clubs remain poles apart in their valuation of Kane and the stand-off shows no sign of being resolved quickly.
With Kane set to be at the heart of a bitter transfer saga between now and deadline day, is there a solution that suits all parties?
Who wants Kane and how much is he worth?
Although Chelsea, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain all have an interest in Kane, and continue to monitor his situation from a distance, Man City are the club making all the running in an effort to sign him.
Having allowed all-time leading goal scorer Sergio Aguero to join Barcelona as a free agent earlier this summer, City manager Pep Guardiola needs a world-class striker to fill the void — and Kane is the No. 1 target.
Sources have told ESPN that Kane has made it clear that he wants to move to the Etihad Stadium and play for the Premier League champions in the Champions League.
But with Kane only halfway through a six-year contract signed in 2018, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is saying it will cost £160m to sign his team’s star player, some £60m more than City’s valuation.
There could be some room for negotiation if City are willing to top up a £100m offer with players — Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus have been suggested as possible part-exchange options — but, for now, Spurs are not budging.
At 28, and with Kane having suffered a number of injuries in recent seasons, £160m is out of step with a game that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Spurs will argue their player still has a long period to run on his contract and that City are one of the very few clubs able to find the money.
Who will blink first?
There are signs that Kane is attempting to calm the waters. He has been on holiday and is yet to return to the United Kingdom, but sources have said that he will report back to Spurs once he has completed the mandatory five-day isolation period.
But Kane certainly delivered a statement of intent by, in the eyes of many, going on strike and failing to report back upon an agreed date. Spurs know that he will play tough if required, but this transfer will not be decided by his actions. It will boil down to Levy and his City counterpart Khaldoon Al Mubarak reaching some kind of compromise.
Football clubs rarely keep players who want to leave. It is regarded as a recipe for damaging squad morale by having an unhappy, and potentially disruptive, player in the dressing room. Such a figure can also generate disharmony among supporters.
So Spurs will agree to the transfer if their valuation is met, and Levy is ready to negotiate. City will be confident of getting Kane because clubs will always look to do a deal for a player whose focus is elsewhere.
Why is Levy regarded as a tough negotiator?
In many ways, City helped Levy forge his formidable reputation when he forced Man United into paying £30.75m to sign Dimitar Berbatov in 2008.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan‘s attempt to prise the Bulgarian away on the day of his City takeover strengthened Levy’s hand with United and his hardball negotiating saw him squeeze an additional £5.75m to get the deal done.
He has since gone on to operate similar deadline-day tactics to sign players or offload them; Real Madrid, for example, paid £85m to sign Gareth Bale in 2013. Levy regards Spurs as a heavyweight club and relishes the opportunity to leave the likes of City and United disappointed, but he may have met his match in Al Mubarak.
Despite spending inflated sums for players in the early days of Abu Dhabi ownership, City have played a different game in recent years and, until this summer, their biggest transfer outlay was £63m for defender Ruben Dias.
City have walked away from transfers before: Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire were targets until the club refused to meet the valuations of Southampton and Leicester City, respectively, allowing the defenders to join rivals Liverpool and Man United instead.
So the danger for Spurs and Levy is that, if they refuse to budge, City could walk away and leave them with an unhappy player and no huge fee to spend on new signings.
If Kane stays, can the relationship be fixed?
When news of Kane’s desire to leave emerged at the end of last season, it was met with a resigned acceptance by Tottenham fans, but he has since lost that goodwill and damaged his relationship with the club and its supporters by failing to return to training.
But despite that, many players in the past have shown that there is always a way back into the fold. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Carlos Tevez (City) and Luis Suarez (Liverpool) all took hard-line positions against their club when attempting to leave, but they soon returned to action and scored important goals.
Kane can do the same and it is difficult to envisage him not continuing to perform as he has always done, but he may suffer the same fate as Rooney at United in being accepted, but no longer loved by the supporters who, let’s not forget, sang that he is “one of our own.” Kane’s actions this week surprised many because it was so out of character for a previously uncontroversial, consummate professional.
How hard will Man City push for the Kane deal?
While the days of City being exploited by clubs wanting huge transfer fees are long gone, they are determined to land a suitable replacement for Aguero, so will fight hard to strike a deal for Kane. They know he wants to join them and that Spurs will do business for the right deal, so it is a case of finding common ground.
There is plenty of time and they will persevere for another two to three weeks at least but, at some stage, there has to be a cut-off to switch targets.
Romelu Lukaku was an alternative option, but the Inter forward now looks set for a return to Chelsea. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is another possibility, with the striker potentially available due to a failure to secure an extension to his contract, which expires in 2023.
Could Kane move next summer instead?
There will always be a market for Kane while he is fit and scoring goals, but the landscape could look different next summer when Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland could be available. Mbappe has yet to extend his contract at PSG, so would be a free agent, while Haaland’s £66m release clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract will become active.
So if Kane is forced to spend another season at Tottenham before looking for a big club next summer, when he will be 29, he will unquestionably find himself down the transfer market hierarchy. All of Europe’s major clubs will do everything possible to win the race for one, or two, of the game’s hottest young forwards.
Kane may not have his pick of clubs as he might this summer, but would still have appealing options and it would be easier to force a move in 12 months, when his contract would be entering its final two years. Top clubs, though, would be wary of spending a huge sum on a 29-year-old.
Where will Kane be on Sept. 1?
Money always wins in football and City have the finances to get a deal done. Kane also wants it to happen, so the likelihood would see him sealing a move this month
If Spurs are to do a deal, they need to act fairly quickly; the worst scenario would be to offload their star player in the final days of the window and end up with little time to replace him properly. Expect a move before the final week of the transfer window.
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