TThe tendency is always to oversimplify, to try to find someone to blame: if only he had done better, if only he had done his job well. But it’s rarely about that, or it’s rarely just about that. The agency of individuals should not be denied. Harry Kane and Daniel Levy have played their part in the continuing saga of the forward’s proposed move to Manchester City. But it’s also about broader economic forces.
For the past week, most of the attention has been on Kane. There is already a sense that his reputation has been tarnished by the saga, disgust at his reluctance to train increased by the fact that he is England’s captain, as if wearing the armband meant that, like Billy Wright and Caesar’s wife , must be above suspicion.
It is unedifying for a player to indeed go on strike to force a move, but equally, it is probably not worth being too self-righteous about it (if that is what Kane has done; he denies it, saying he will return as planned). Kane has seen Luka Modric and Gareth Bale take similar steps to secure moves away from Tottenham.
Noting that no one would behave like this in another business is true, but largely irrelevant. This is not another business: a footballer cannot simply give his three-month notice and in other businesses the employee records are not changed by millions of pounds. A footballer does not have the option of remaining inactive until retirement age; rather, you have a window of, if you’re lucky, a decade near its peak and any time wasted or wasted on that is critical.
The fact that Kane signed a six-year deal in 2018 is also not as turning point as many seem to think. It is true that it gave him security if he suffered serious injuries but it also gave Tottenham security; no one would be talking about potential fees of £ 160 million now if you had one year left.
Just as important as what is written in the contract are the accompanying verbal agreements. It can be argued that Kane and his agents were naive in not having everything in writing like Jack Grealish did. But it is equally naive to believe that certain guarantees will not be given alongside a contract that is not in the interest of either party to establish: in terms of investment in the team and, perhaps, allowing a player to leave if an offer of a certain value is made by a club of a certain stature. When Kane signed that deal, the expectation would not have been the chaos of the past two years or the Spurs finishing seventh in 2020-21.
That is not to say that Kane is necessarily right to leave, but that Tottenham is also the author of this situation: them and the strictly stratified financial structure of the sport. It’s also not obvious that Levy’s resistance to the sale, his legendary tough negotiating style, is improving the situation.
The sale of a totem player does not have to be negative. On eight occasions in the last 50 years, a club sold a player for a world record fee and won their national title or the Champions League the following season. But not all clubs are the same in this regard: Barcelona (which has three of those examples) or Juventus (two) can sell a great name and no one doubts that it is a great club. Tottenham do it and suddenly the concern arises that it is a selling club. A rising talent sees Ronaldo leave Barcelona or Paul Pogba leave Juventus and thinks there is a vacancy for a new hero; You see Kane leave Tottenham and you begin to wonder how ambitious the club really is, if that Champions League final in 2019 was a temporary promise.
Tottenham have been burned for this before, squandering a considerable chunk of the money they received for Bale. That said, there has probably never been a better time for a club to have a sudden windfall (assuming Tottenham can use most of any Kane fee for transfers) – the pandemic means that clubs across Europe are desperate to lighten up. your salary burden. There are bargains.
Clubs like Liverpool and Leicester have used big sales to finance acquisitions that have helped them develop. It is possible, but it requires a consistent scouting and recruiting department. Whether Tottenham have that is debatable and if Kane is sold it will be a big test for Fabio Paratici, the soccer managing director they appointed in the summer.
Then there is the question of time. Levy tends to push transactions as close to the bottom of the window as possible to secure the highest possible rate. In 2012, for example, Modric was finally sold to Real Madrid for £ 30 million four days before the window closed. Perhaps the delay raised the rate by a few million, but it also interrupted Tottenham’s start to the season; they took two points from their first three league games and missed out on qualifying for the Champions League by one point.
The later Kane leaves, the less time Tottenham will have to spend the fee and they will find themselves dealing with clubs that they know have £ 150m or more ready to spend. In that sense, Aston Villa probably handled a similar situation better, signing Emiliano Buendía and Leon Bailey before Grealish left.
For Tottenham, there is a risk of staying with Kane. It seems unlikely that he will sulk, but what will his worth be next summer? What if he gets injured? How easy is it to plan when the club’s highest profile player wants to leave? And why would Kane have faith in Levy’s ability to get this right?
Clearly, Kane is not innocent, but in reality his desire to leave is another consequence of the lack of investment during the last years of Mauricio Pochettino’s time at the club, which in turn was the result of investment in the new stadium. Moving up the hierarchy can be a very painful process.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism