Friday morning, reports surfaced in the footballing media about Manchester United having an interest in buying Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur. While there aren't any concrete offers for Spurs' talismanic striker, there''s been lots of talk about United "testing Tottenham's resolve" and of Ed Woodward "locking horns" with Daniel Levy.
It's still not time to panic, and while a bid could come in for him, the odds of Tottenham actually selling Harry Kane are pretty low. But it got me thinking: what would it take for Tottenham to sell Harry Kane to Manchester United? Under what circumstances, and at what price point, would an offer for Kane become viable? Would it ever?
Nobody wants to talk about this possibility, especially so soon after Gareth Bale broke our hearts and took the pieces with him to Madrid. But someone needs to talk about it, so I took the question to my fellow writers at Cartilage Free Captain. The answer came back: it depends. There are a few questions that we need to have answered before the question of when would we sell Kane can be answered.
How large is Tottenham's summer transfer budget?
Tottenham are not a club that's going to routinely drop £90m on new players. And even the season they did, they broke even thanks to the sale of Gareth Bale. If we assume that we probably have about £30m or so to spend including what we spent on Kevin Wimmer, and especially if that includes the sale of a few of the dead weight players, then it's reasonable to assume that we're working more on a few targeted positions, and that the future of the club includes another season with Harry Kane. If Spurs were seriously considering selling Harry Kane, I'd guess we'd be linked to a few more prominent strikers than Danny Ings and Anthony Martial.
Who is available to replace Kane, and at what price?
This one is also key. Tottenham have lucked into a situation where they have a star emerge from their academy overnight, and while this gives them an important commodity, it means that if they sell him they need to replace him with someone that can hopefully replace his output. Spurs, as they have been for years, are on the cusp of Champions League qualification, but aren't quite there yet, and therefore won't be able to attract the same kind of talent to completely replace someone of Kane's ability. 30 goal EPL strikers don't grow on trees, and those that are around won't really want to go to Tottenham Hotspur. Sure, Spurs can overpay for an up and coming young striker a few years ahead of his prime that might otherwise go to Chelsea or City, but that's already Spurs' game plan (minus the overpaying part), and what happens if that player doesn't pan out? (John Guidetti says hello.)
Is Kane's symbolic value to Tottenham more than his monetary value to another club?
And here's where we get into the fuzzy logic of a potential transfer. Spurs find themselves in an interesting position wherein they now possess what appears to be a budding world-class star who genuinely appears to want to stay at the club. As long as Kane continues his present trajectory, the combination of his play, his importance, and his emotional value to Spurs outpaces almost any monetary value that another club could offer for him. Would Liverpool ever have sold Steven Gerrard? Would United ever have sold Ryan Giggs? Harry Kane just might be that sort of player for Tottenham Hotspur.
OK, but seriously, isn't there a "must sell" price?
Of course there is. Every player has a price, but at least this summer it's likely obscenely (and prohibitively) high. The rumored £50m price that's floating around in ITK circles is almost ludicrously low. According to a newly-released CIES Football Observatory document, Harry Kane is the 49th most likely player to be sold in Europe based on their metric, and #15 on a list of European players with the highest potential transfer values, with an estimated price of £53.5m - 58.9m. That's higher than Gareth Bale, Phillipe Coutinho, and Mario Götze. That's a lot of cheddar.
So let's take the hypothetical to the extreme and posit that United will make an absolutely ludicrous bid for Kane – a world-record transfer fee bid of £100m. At this point, yes, I think we have broached into the realm where business decision may trump football decision. But even so, what would Spurs spend the money on? The new stadium is financed. Spurs already have a world-class training facility. Expensive megabucks players won't come to White Hart Lane because Spurs still can't offer the same salaries, and they can't (yet) offer Champions League football. The £100m could be spent a la the Bale money in an attempt to finance a slight upgrade in a lot of different positions, but the reality of transfers is that not all of them will work out, and that money is then "wasted." Money is nice, but only if it can be effectively re-invested in the club to strengthen it long-term. Would the benefit of having £100m lying around be higher than the footballing benefit to having Harry Kane in the side in 2015-16? That's the question.
What about next year?
Well, that's next year. If Harry Kane has another 30 goal season – heck, even if he only scores 20 goals next year – then he'll have disproved the "one season wonder" questions and a lot more big-name clubs will be sniffing around him. With luck, Spurs will have qualified for the Champions League, and either Kane will have his chance to play at the highest level of European football with his hometown club. If not, then it may be tougher to keep ahold of him. Or it might not. It all depends on Kane, and whether he will prioritize happiness at his chosen club over Champions League ambitions, or if he will eventually have his head turned in the same way Gareth Bale did.
The end result is that, right now, there doesn't appear to be too much to worry about. Kane's happy, the club has almost all the leverage it needs to rebuff any non-insane bids, and the club is showing a lot of ambition for a club its size. There's always a negligible chance that something could happen and a club like United could double-down on the crazy, but I don't think that will happen this summer. I feel confident that whatever happens, Harry Kane is very, very likely to be playing in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt next season. The prices bandied about in the media, combined with the way Kane has not only performed on the pitch but has endeared himself to the Tottenham Hotspur fan base world wide, suggests that Kane's importance to Spurs is higher than what most clubs are willing to pay for him.
But ask me this question again after United makes that £100m bid.