A few years ago, I wrote a very similar article about Gareth Bale. My conclusion, back in 2013, was no. No, we should not sell Gareth Bale.
Obviously, we did.
Now, people will have their own views on whether that was the right move or not. At the time, Bale had made it clear he wanted to leave, and Tottenham sold him for a then world-record fee. With that fee, we strengthened with seven players, with mixed results.
Fast-forward on seven years to 2020, and the conversation is beginning again. Admittedly only in embryonic stage, but from Harry Kane’s recent comments, the conversation is sure to continue.
So, should Tottenham sell Harry Kane? Instinct says no. The prospect of losing your best player is sickening idea for any club and it’s supporters, but should it be quite so sickening in this instance?
The issue isn’t about Harry Kane himself. Yes, it’s great he has come through the ranks. Yes, it’s great he is passionate about the club. Yes, it’s great he is a leader, and there is no better model professional to lead than Harry Kane. We, the fans, the club, hell the country, love Harry Kane for those things, but the attribute that trumps all of those things is that he scores 20+ goals a season. That’s it. That’s the clincher. That’s what separates Harry Kane from players like Troy Deeney, who are equally as passionate, equally as professional, equally as capable a leader. Goals. Great hoards of lovely lovely goals. Harry scores them all. Screamers, tap-ins, headers, penalties. He scores them. Now, I appreciate there is morning to Harry Kane’s game than merely goals, and I am not trying to do him a disservice by reducing his contribution to goals alone, but those goals are the certainly the most significant impact he has on the outcome of games.
The big fear then, is replacement. Can you sell your best player and find an appropriate alternative, or will the alternative be rubbish and you’ll be crying into your beer as you see your old best player scoring a third consecutive hat trick for his new club in his opening three games? To make it Harry Kane specific: can we sell Harry (knowing he will score goals wherever he goes), and replace him with someone else who can score 20+ goals consistently season after season?
The answer is, yes. Of course we can. Because while Harry Kane is a special player, he is by no means unique. There are other players who score huge quantities of goals.
Fortunately, Tottenham have a direct basis for comparison: the sale of Gareth Bale.
Now this is not quite a like for like comparison. Bale didn’t play at No.9 for Tottenham, yet I defy anyone to suggest Gareth Bale is not an equally special player.
Gareth Bale played 203 games for Spurs, scoring 56 goals and registering 58 assists (transfermarkt). He contributed to just over a goal every other game from positions as variant as left back, left winger, right winger, attacking midfielder, and striker. When he left, I was wondering how on earth we would find a replacement, as I am sure many readers of this article were likewise. Yet find a replacement we did, in the form of Christian Eriksen. Not quite like for like, but someone who delivered comparably, and filled the void.
Christian Eriksen played 305 games for Tottenham, scoring 51 goals, and registering 61 assists. He essentially contributed to a goal every other game (transfermarkt). A little less than Gareth Bale, perhaps. But with the Bale transfer money, we can add in the contributions of a number of other players too, Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli in particular.
So the fear of no replacement is, in its most basic form, unfounded. However, this demands context. For every Eriksen there may be a Soldado. The important lesson to be learned from the Bale transfer is that when it comes to replacement, the it does not have to be an all or nothing affair. The Bale money was spent. Eriksen (and to a lesser extent, Lamela), were the ripe fruits of reinvestment. The rest of the batch were rotten. The ambition was there though. To try and strengthen a number of areas within the squad by acquiring improvements. The issue at the time, was that this was a Board strategy and not a managerial strategy. Then manager, Andre Villas-Boas, did not want a huge quantity of players signed for him. Rather, he wanted a few key players of his choosing to come in: Joao Moutinho, Hulk, David Villa, and Willian- those that he knew would be able to fit his intended way of playing. Obviously, none did, and aside from Eriksen and Lamela, no other signings acquired by the Board with the Bale money could be in any way considered successful signings with the majority sold in the seasons after for significant losses.
Therefore, the prospect of any Kane sale needs to be looked at through the lens of former mistakes. Should he go, the approach to signing players needs to be reviewed. There is simply no point signing players that the manager will not be able to use. The example of Andre Villas-Boas shows us where that will lead. Rather, the manager needs to set out his requirements, and these need to be weighed against the impact of Kane’s sale. With Bale, this clearly did not happen, or else it did not happen correctly. Tottenham’s ducks were not in a row. The club appear to have sold Bale without replacements secured or even lined up, and seemingly, without any Plan B in case their preferred choices weren’t available.
But, in the same way as with the Bale sale, there is a very real need now to strengthen the squad once again. There would not just be another forward required, but two, as well as replacing wingbacks, a central defender, a central midfielder, and a creative attacking midfielder. The rebuild at Tottenham will be expensive, and we all know of Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis well enough to know they would never commit to funding such a rebuild out of club finances alone. However, the sums muted for Kane are in the £200 million bracket (Daily Mail). (I caveat this by saying I there is zero chance we would get anything like that amount for him, but I am led by those allegedly “in the know”, and so will run with it!)
The money from selling Kane, if spent correctly, might enable two or potentially even three quality signings. It should not be seen as an opportunity to rebuild, because a £200 million rebuild would not be satisfactory. Nowadays, with the market as inflated as it is, trying to sign half a dozen players with £200 million would not likely yield the level of quality in a signing consistent Champions League knockout contenders would expect or desire. So perhaps two or three signings of real quality might be more realistic. That is not to be sniffed at though. The squad is in dire need of refreshment with players of real quality. Seeking Kane would be an opportunity to deliver this.
The question posed by this article was whether or not to sell Harry Kane. Maybe the bottom line is this: he is a player who will be 27 next season, and who has missed significant portions of the last few seasons through injury. Moreover, if we don’t sell, we continue into the next campaign (whenever that may be) with what will likely be, largely the same squad. That underwhelming prospect alone demonstrates the opportunity in moving away from Kane is too good to pass up. But, as ever, it is only worth selling for the right price. Daniel Levy knows this better than anyone, shrewd negotiator that he is. However, where Daniel Levy has revealed his shortcomings is in the circumstances behind the deal. The price for Bale was right, the failure to sign the manager’s choice of players was not.
Should Daniel Levy choose to sell Harry Kane, I won’t argue the transfer if Tottenham sign quality in replacement. Sadly though, I fear that any sale would come too late. At 9.45pm on transfer deadline day, Kane signs for Manchester Utd. At 10.20 on transfer deadline day, Daniel Levy resigns Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch, ready to lead the line for Jose Mourinho’s charge back into the Europa League.
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