The rumors started a few weeks ago, but Tottenham’s firing of José Mourinho as manager seemingly has not been enough to keep their favorite son home. Harry Kane has reportedly told Tottenham he wants to move on this summer, to a club where he can win things instead of just waving at them as they go by.
Given that the world spun off its axis in the meantime, it’s still hard to fathom that it was only about 20 months ago where Spurs did seem like that club. They had Mauricio Pochettino as manager, were coming off their first ever Champions League final appearance, had contended for the league title a couple of times previously, and still boasted a young-ish, exciting roster. But life comes at you fast, soccer even faster, and it can be a deGrom fastball when you’re Tottenham. Pochettino reached the end of his cycle, the team went stagnant, and in came Mourinho to turn that stagnancy into funny-smelling water.
Spurs are going to miss out on the Champions League for sure, for the second straight season, and they might even be reduced to the new Europa Conference League, which has all the allure of detention. And that’s apparently been enough for Kane to decide to pack his bags... or just change his route to work to West London, but we’ll get to that.
Kane is only the first domino to officially fall in what could be a bonkers summer when it comes to transfers of strikers. The market could be flooded with names like Kane, Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappé, Robert Lewandowski. Mo Salah, and the small matter of whether Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona this time, which only a last-minute swerve prevented last summer. And then there’s all the transfers on the next level or two down that will happen as teams scramble to either replace these players or spend to make up for losing out on them.
And the list of clubs that could be in pursuit of new forwards are the ones that drive the market down the rabbit hole and into something out of Fear and Loathing, to mix drug-induced, literary metaphors. Barcelona will be desperate to give Messi a running buddy to replace Luis Suárez and Neymar from years ago and with someone else other than Antoine Griezmann’s lustrous hair. Real Madrid have yet to replace Christiano Ronaldo (who will also be available if anyone wants to pay his Cortez’s treasure of a salary), and Karim Benzema is getting up there in age.
Chelsea have watched Timo Werner be the embodiment of sadness all season and are hot after a center forward. They’ve reportedly already been in touch with Tottenham about Kane, which will be even more water on the towel over every Spurs supporters’ face. So have both Manchester clubs. City have played without a recognized center forward all season for the most part, which hasn’t stopped them from being the scariest team in Europe. And maybe they want to stay that way, but it’s unlikely. United have gotten by with the aging Edinson Cavani between Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, but he can only play so many games and is 34. A longer term solution will be needed either way.
Those five clubs alone can drive the transfer market. And there could be more. There’s been some buzz that after spending the last two seasons turning the Bundesliga into baby food, Lewandowski might want one last challenge and move to the Premier League, which would drop Bayern Munich into this frenzy. Salah, and more to the point his agent, haven’t been exactly quiet as they try and wrangle a new contract out of Liverpool, and it’s been a poorly kept secret that the Egyptian could head for one of the Spanish giants one day. If Liverpool were to cock up their last two games and miss out on the Champions League, that could hasten that whispered rumor to reality. Liverpool might be after a forward anyway after watching both Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané Sadio Mane do an impressive Magoo act for the second half of the season.
But it could also go flat. Dortmund have stated that Haaland will stay for next year, which generally means that they’ll wait for an offer big enough to replace their Viagra prescriptions. Lewandowski is over 30 and may be content to saunter to the Bundesliga title every year with 35+ goals. Mbappé Mbappe only has one year left on his contract, so if he were going to be sold the time is now. But PSG are still intent on being a European superpower, and he’s part of it. Barcelona would make Messi’s house city hall if that’s what it takes.
And that’s before you count for the idea that after the pandemic and a full season with no crowds, these teams just don’t have any money. And yet they always seem to find the money when they need to, don’t they?
All it takes is one Premier League club plucking Kane from North London for the others to feel like they have to counter. Barca and Madrid can’t tie their shoes without wondering how the other side is doing so, so any purchase from one is going to mean a purchase from the other. Which will make all these clubs’ claim of poverty during the pandemic seem just a touch farcical.