I love Harry Kane. He is one of Tottenham Hotspur’s finest ever players and ambassadors but the time has come for him to move on.
Of course, this would not be the case if he wanted to stay. But Kane is one of the best footballers in the world and his aspirations match his talent. He has made it clear that he wants to win the biggest prizes in the world. This is an ambition that Spurs simply cannot facilitate.
Dreamers among us Spurs fans can fantasize of some masterplan that might keep Prince Kane happy in his modest North London kingdom. But Daniel Levy is not known for bringing fairytales to life.
The reality is that Spurs would have to sign another Kane-level player (or two) in order just to challenge for the Premier League title next season. Let’s put that into context. We are talking about players like Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and the ilk.
Finance is not the only factor. Even if Spurs could afford to sign any player in this bracket, they would be nowhere near the front of the queue.
If Kane wants to go, Levy should do what he does best and cash-in this summer before the 27-year-old striker’s value inevitable starts to slide.
Kane has carried Spurs in recent times. The current squad without him is closer to the level of Wolves and Southampton than it is to Manchester City and Chelsea. At least the income from a likely £100m+ transfer fee would provide some sort of ammunition for the new manager (whoever that is) to try to shape a new team full of the players they want. But Tottenham’s dreams must be unquestionably be scaled back.
Kane clearly loves the club and it is believable that one Premier League title with Spurs would have meant more to him than say three in Manchester. But Tottenham’s ship has sailed.
This Spurs generation had its chance when so many of the usual suspects temporarily dipped. In the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons combined Tottenham won more points than any other Premier League team, though they finished 11 and seven points short of Leicester and Chelsea respectively in those campaigns individually.
But look at who has won the league since that crazy Leicester anomaly: Chelsea, Man City, Man City, Liverpool, Man City. Spurs are not in that bracket. Not because they are Spursy. Not because they don’t have that winning mentality. But because Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Manchester United and arguably Arsenal for that matter are much, much bigger clubs in terms of monetary muscle.
Those clubs can afford to recruit and pay the elite players they desire to fill key gaps, without fearing they are living beyond their means or even risking their financial future. Spurs are, of course, a very rich club in comparison to fellow Premier League also-rans. But they remain lightyears behind the untouchables who they have been admirably pretending to compete with for five years.
Spurs were never able to fully build on their remarkable organic growth spurt which resulted in their recent overachievement (yes, overachievement). Why? Because they couldn’t fund that next-level final piece of the puzzle. They couldn’t even replace Mousa Dembele or Christian Eriksen. And, sorry for the spoiler, they certainly won’t be able to replace Kane.
It is impossible not to rue the opportunities missed, but that is history now and it is time to let go.
Yes, Spurs have been overachievers
One of the problems with modern day football is that there is a demand and an expectation to constantly improve year on year in a straight-line trajectory. This creates an inevitable narrative of failure for most, if not all at some point, especially those who temporarily rise above their rightful place. And it is why managers seldom last longer than a couple of years.
But when we look at the speed of Tottenham’s net growth over the last decade, when we look at where they were compared with where they are, it far from a tale of stagnant failure.
Their average league finish in the 1990s was 10th. In the 2000s it was 9th. In the past five seasons they ended up 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th. Why was this so impressive? Because they delivered Chelsea-esque football while continuing to pay West Ham wages.
Spurs did an admirable job of pretending to belong at the very top of the table for half a decade. They even managed to make people believe in a mythical Big Six. For the record, being one of the six most powerful clubs in England is not the same as belonging to ‘the Big Six’, which implies some sort of parity among its members. We might as well invite Newcastle, Everton and Aston Villa into the Big 12.
Despite building a flash new home and ballsily signing up to Florentino Perez’s plan to steal football, Spurs were never on par with their fellow Super League conspirators.
Chelsea, City, Liverpool and United play by different rules. That’s not being bitter. That’s not being defeatist. It is just how it is. They are bigger than Spurs, in terms of global fanbase, in terms of possible squad investment and therefore in terms of on-pitch potential.
The rest compete with a heavy handicap in England, but that doesn’t mean we cannot dream. Look at what little Leicester did and continue to do… for now.
Dream is the key word, though. Elite success – Premier League and European titles – should be a dream, not an expectation for Spurs and those level or below them in the food chain.
I am hoping that Kane’s exit relieves a bit of pressure around the club. It should allow Spurs to stop forcing themselves to be judged on the Big Six grading criteria and to set some more attainable goals.
Football can be more enjoyable without Kane
Lowering expectations doesn’t mean we Spurs fans should stop enjoying football, quite the opposite.
The obsession with needing to win a trophy has become exhausting and joy-sapping. I was at the 2008 Carling Cup final when plucky underdogs Spurs, who finished 11th in the league that year, humbled mega-rich Chelsea at Wembley. It was such a brilliant experience. A day powered by hope (not demand) and unconditional pride. The result was a brilliant bonus. The 2009 loss to United was a similarly brilliant day too, despite the disappointment of defeat.
Fast-forward a decade and change. The recent Carabao Cup final versus Manchester City was far from enjoyable, not just because of the outcome and the relative lack of supporters at the stadium. It was no longer an exciting shot in the dark at glory… Spurs fans now had bihourly reminders from Sky Sports that we needed to win or else. We had to win to keep Kane. We had to win to end the trophy drought. We needed to win because otherwise this golden generation would have nothing to show for themselves.
I miss the days when Spurs picking up three points was justifiable cause to enjoy the weekend. Now, regardless of an individual result, we tend to find ourselves in a constant state of dissatisfaction because we are still X amount of points, or X number of players, off being where we “need to be”.
I know this might just sound like I’m a miserable fan who prefers the comfort of mediocrity. There might be a tiny bit of truth in that but that’s not the overriding sentiment. I’m sure I would love to follow Spurs as a genuine powerhouse of English football, winning trophies for fun.
Who knows? That might one day become a reality if Spurs get dealt a favourable hand in the next round of New Owners Bingo. But until then, it’s better to save ourselves the misery and stop pretending to be something we are not.
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