It’s not often that we wallow in the muck and the mire, but, when we do, I hope we can still come out smelling like roses. While we’ve been busy little bees in the transfer window thus far, our North London rivals have been almost as busy, signing Maddison and Vicario while making the loans of Kulusevski and Porro permanent deals. Still, looming over that entire mess of a club like a sword of Damocles is the future of one Harry Kane, who refuses to commit his future to the club while flirting openly with Bayern. It’s a saga we know all too well.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to commiserate with our erstwhile rivals. If anything, I’m sizing up their chances at competing with us. Short version: even if Kane stays, they won’t compete with us. Taking a broader view, though, there are echoes in Kane’s situation that reverberate all the way back to the summer of 2013. It was then that our own talismanic striker, Robin van Persie, made it clear that he wanted out of London, creating an inescapable catch-22. The summer prior, after all, had seen us forced to sell Fabregas and Nasri. Still, van Persie was finally fit and delivered one of his best seasons with the club. However, by broadcasting his intent to leave, he created the conditions that guaranteed his departure.
Whom did we sign that summer in an attempt to persuade van Persie to stay? Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, and Santi Cazorla. While each of them become cult heroes in their own rights and for their own reasons, none of them was the kind of signing that would convince a player like van Persie to stay at the club. The previous window wasn’t much better; none of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta, Mertesacker, Gervinho, and Santos were going to get pulses racing.
That’s some catch, that catch-22. By openly agitating for a move, van Persie made it infinitely more-difficult to sign the kind of players that would convince him to stay. Who in their right minds would join a club that was being held hostage by its best player, its only world-class talent, its talisman? Anyone worth the asking price would be asking “why should I join a club that’s about to lose its best player on the vague promise that doing so will convince him to stay?”
And so it is with Harry Kane. Like van Persie, he’s wasted his best years surrounded be inferior talent. Aside from him and maybe Son, I can’t name a single player I’d want in our squad, certainly not as a starter and maybe not as a substitute. Okay, maybe Kulusevski. He’d do well as Saka’s deputy. Again, though, Kane is a victim of his own demands. With that squad in desperate need of an overhaul, and with the sunset of his own career growing ever closer, he’s right to hedge his bets. However, like van Persie, he has to recognise how his own hedging hinders the club’s ability to sign the kind of players that would help him pursue or perhaps even win silverware.
Were he to pledge his future to Tottenham, he might very well convince two or three players to commit as well. He might even convince Levy to spend the money it would take to make Tottenham legitimate contenders for silverware at some level or another. The Prem title? Nope. An FA Cup or League Cup? Far more likely. A fully committed Kane would the difference between signing Caicedo, Mount, or Onana and signing Vicario, Solomon, and Maddison.
Making matters worse, even selling the talisman is no guarantee that Levy will know what to do. It was the year after we had to sell van Persie that Tottenham sold Bale only to re-invest in the likes of Soldado, Lamela, Capoue, Paulinho, and Eriksen (the last of whom did prove to be quality). This is Tottenham’s Scylla and Charybdis. They can’t keep Kane and sign a few other top-shelf players. They can’t sell Kane and sign a few top-shelf players.
Pick your literary allusion. Catch-22. Sword of Damocles. Scylla & Charybdis. Whichever way you slice it, it looks a lot like a sinking ship.