The world was an altogether rosier place for Tottenham Hotspur when Harry Kane put fresh ink on a new six year contract back in the summer of 2018. With lucrative bonuses the Spurs forward could earn up to £200,000 a week as he committed to his boyhood club until 2024.
Factor in another top-four finish under Mauricio Pochettino and a handsome tally of 30 Premier League goals for the academy graduate- cum-world-class striker, and it’s easy to see why Spurs fans saw a bright and limitless future with one of their own leading the line.
However, the old maxim that time waits for no man is perhaps perfectly illustrated in the ruthless arena of modern football. Less than two years on from signing that bumper new deal, Kane has been to a Champions League final, seen his side play some breathtaking football before witnessing the manager who orchestrated their modern rival leave through the back door.
Now 26-years-old and nursing a nasty hamstring complaint, the Spurs captain has seen good players depart around him, an exciting cycle come to a bitter end and despite all of his goals, collected precisely zero winners medals.
Spurs may have exceeded all expectations to reach that Champion League final last season, but it does not mask the fact that the club has been rapidly regressing. Their title challenge in 2018/19 didn’t just peter out, it went over a cliff. By mid-October of 2019, Spurs had the worst Premier League away record of the calendar year and picked up fewer points over that period than their London rivals Crystal Palace.
Pochettino’s departure and the unveiling of Jose Mourinho as his successor back in November has hardly served to stop the rot. Spurs have since gone out of the FA Cup and Champions League and are mired seven points adrift of the top four places.
Kane is fast approaching his prime. His form for Spurs and England, though punctuated with frustrating injuries in recent seasons, has remained excellent. Since penning his new contract, the striker has notched 60 goals for club and country, as well as bagging the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup.
There are arguments to be made about his suitability to certain formations and styles of play. However, his lethal prowess in front of goal cannot be disputed. It is surely only a matter of time before a player of his ability yearns for the opportunity to win trophies on a consistent basis.
Before football was halted in March, Spurs were once again out of the equation for major honours as well as facing a major rebuild under a manager not exactly famed for his ability to construct teams from the ground up. In this context, excited talk of the England international reportedly looking leave the club he loves is understandable.
Yet, even if the rumours are true and the player is unsettled; any notion of leaving Spurs would not be clear cut. Chairman Daniel Levy drives the hardest of bargains and has become arguably the game’s toughest negotiator in recent years.
Luka Modric, Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose all faced recent, protracted departures from Spurs with rival clubs learning the hard way that Levy is someone who plays hardball and refuses to blink. With a contract that runs for another four years, the ball is not in Kane’s court which means Levy is free to follow a similar path and demand top dollar for his star player.
Therein lies another issue for Kane. If he is genuinely taking stock and thinking about forcing a move, there are few clubs out there who could genuinely afford his price tag. As proved to be the case with Gareth Bale, Levy is likely to demand a record fee should any suitors come knocking. While the 26-year-old’s talents are obvious, it remains a conundrum, given the current climate and Financial Fair Play, to see how any club could engineer the money required for such a transfer.
Frustratingly for all interested parties, Kane’s future remains open for speculation with a host of rumours swirling around North London about how a transfer saga may play out.
The England forward is clearly devoted to Spurs and any decision to leave would be one forged from internal conflict and yearning ambition. However, romantic notions of one-club men are becoming increasingly anachronistic in the modern game.
Players who have selflessly given themselves up to the employment of one single football institution over the past couple of decades have normally been rewarded with copious major honours and crowning achievements to go with it. This does simply not apply to Kane after almost ten years of his professional career.
He can take solace that in Mourinho he at least has a manager with a handy penchant in winning honours. However, given Spurs recent habit of making things hard, this is not something to be banked on, especially given the volume of work required to fix the many squad problems that have sprung up over the past 18 months.
Recent events at Newcastle, with a reported imminent takeover from seemingly limitless Saudi Arabian reserves will probably add yet another competitive beast into the equation for major honours in the coming seasons. For clubs like Spurs, this will only make life harder to break their 12-year trophy drought; another factor which is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by the ambitious Mr Kane.
Worryingly for Spurs fans, their transfer sagas have been numerous and agonising affairs in recent years. It would be a shame to see a homegrown stalwart become another example of stubborn posturing in the transfer market.
The malaise that has taken hold in recent months is unlikely to be corrected overnight and will continue to encroach on the club’s abilities to win trophies. A player of Harry Kane’s calibre is not going to be satisfied with Europa League football and runners up medals. If he is forced to stay and bear the burden of expectation as his big contract runs down, he could end up locked in a loveless relationship at a club that is trapped in yet another moment of transition.