“I don’t want to come to the end of my career and have any regrets.” Harry Kane, 21 May, 2021.
Said as the striker tried to engineer a move away from Tottenham Hotspur to join Manchester City via that revelatory interview with Gary Neville on the pundit’s Overlap YouTube show.
Kane was referring, it seemed, to regrets at not winning any trophies in his career — a distinct prospect of staying at his boyhood club. The way things are going, more than two years later, Kane maybe regretting not trying to force his way out of the club much sooner.
The latest twist in what is becoming the longest transfer saga in history, this one coming from across the Atlantic, is that Joe Lewis, the Tottenham owner, has told Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to ensure Kane does not leave on a free transfer next summer. Either secure Kane to a new contract now — with a reported offer of £400,000 per week in front of him — or let him leave.
While Levy has the air of someone who has never regretted any decision he has ever made — nor does he intend to start regretting anything now — Lewis, the 86-year-old British billionaire — is perhaps starting to feel a touch edgy that his football club may miss out on an £80m cash injection for its most successful ever academy player if his chairman doesn’t see sense.
Chelsea saw the light when they agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to sell Mason Mount to Manchester United, for £55m plus £5m in add-ons, in July. It had been made clear to the club that Mount was gone this summer or next, and Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly wasn’t prepared to countenance losing a highly-rated product of their academy for nothing. The business case is obvious.
The shift in Kane’s situation, influenced from above, appears to have piqued the interest — again — of United, who earlier in the summer baulked at Levy’s demands of more than £100m.
You can see why: however incredible Kane is, he’s still a 29-year-old with only 12 months remaining on his contract.
Where Levy is concerned there’s always been a “Premier League Premium” to selling Kane to a domestic rival and over in Germany Bayern Munich spied an opportunity.
Looking back to that pinch point in Many 2021 in Kane’s long withdrawal from the club, those early attempts to prise himself from Levy’s strangely and deceptively strong grip, the player appeared to rule out a move abroad.
“I never said I’d stay at Spurs for the rest of my career, I never said I’d leave Spurs….but I feel like I’ve got another career to play. I’ve got seven, eight years left in the Premier League,” he said.
That view appears to have been ground out of him by Levy’s exhaustively tough – nigh-on impossible – negotiating stance, with Kane now grateful to leap into the arms of any club that can offer him the prospect of trophies, home or abroad.
As a sense of how exacerbating the process has been, Kane’s camp thought he had a “gentleman’s agreement” with Levy in 2020 when City made enquiries about buying him. The thinking was he would accept now was not the right time but a year later he would be allowed to leave. A year later when City came knocking again, it was suggested Levy had only agreed to listen to offers, not to let him go.
It’s the sort of semantic whataboutery that seems scarcely believable for multi-million-pound business deals, but is actually fairly common in football.
So here we are, after knuckling down for a couple of seasons Kane was expecting Levy finally to retrieve the key from his safe and unlock the striker’s shackles. Only Levy appears still unable to accept that Kane can leave for anyone in the Premier League, or for a fee nobody is realistically going to pay.
Spurs aren’t going to be able to replace Kane, which is fine. That calibre of player is simply unattainable for a club of their spending power. But that doesn’t mean they can’t move on.
They have a new manager, Ange Postecoglou, with new ideas and, with the inevitable looming next year anyway, now is probably the right time to shape the future without the player everything has been moulded around for almost a decade of the recent past.
Sometimes letting go is hard. Especially letting go of someone Levy – and Spurs – have loved so much. But it’s reached the point where the Spurs chairman has to do that, or everyone will be filled with regret.