Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Jose Mourinho has broken Tottenham, possibly for good

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho and Harry Kane shake hands after a March 14 loss to Arsenal.
Spurs manager Jose Mourinho and Harry Kane shake hands after a March 14 loss to Arsenal.
Image: Getty Images

It’s not a surprise that Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Tottenham Hotspur has gone completely balls up. Anyone who watched the end of his stays at Chelsea (The Sequel) and Manchester United could have told you how this would go. An initial circling of the wagons that yields some promising early results, before giving way to conservative tactics that leave no margin for error, followed by the shotgunning of players under the nearest bus at the slightest whiff of trouble. If Mourinho could throw in the occasional petty fight with the club’s board, so much the better.

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But at least when he left United and Chelsea, the talented squads were left in place to rebound pretty quickly. Chelsea won the title the very next season under Antonio Conte, while Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, and a host of others were still in Manchester to at least be the frame of whatever this United team is under Ole Gunnar Soskjaer.

Spurs, on the other hand, might be reduced to the studs by the time Mourinho is done, if reports are true that Harry Kane wants out should they not qualify for the Champions League. Given another half-hearted capitulation against United today that left them in seventh, six points behind fourth, that qualification seems a fantasy.

Spurs have been Kane-centric for a few years now, but none more so than this season. He’s either scored or assisted on 32 of Tottenham’s 52 goals in the league this season, scoring 19 and assisting another 13. This might be his finest season, and it’s gotten the club exactly nowhere as he can’t outscore their defensive frailties and confusion and dystopia everywhere else on the field. It’s not as though Mourinho has installed a cohesive attacking plan most weeks, just that Kane and running buddy Heung-Min Son are good enough to figure it out themselves. Mourinho’s only salve has been to accuse the players of not following his instructions, which either means his instructions aren’t clear enough or he can’t get his player to listen, both of which would be his fault.

Kane is 27, which means he doesn’t have a season or two to waste while Spurs go through another rehabilitation, whether that’s under Mourinho or someone else. He is one of the world’s best strikers and should be on the biggest stages. While he doesn’t get the pub of Mbappe or Haaland or Lewandowski, Kane has poured in 17 or more goals seven straight seasons, and five of those have seen him over 20. He’s metronomic, and his increased assist-totals this season show a new dimension to his game.

The size of the hole left by Kane’s departure couldn’t be taped over. And the other issue for Tottenham is that Kane might not fetch a fee that would be high enough for them to fortify a couple of positions, as would be the hope.

Kane’s age would see him come in at significantly lower than the transfer fees Mbappe or Haaland are possibly going to net in the summer, rumored to be anywhere between $180 million to over $200 million. His presence also swells the market. He’s been connected to Real Madrid before, as well as either Manchester club, and all of them might like the idea of shelling out $50-$80 million less for Kane than either of the other two. There’s also Danny Ings on the other side of the spectrum if any club is interested in filling out the experienced, prolific Premier League striker spot for cheaper than Kane. That’s if anyone has the money at the end of the pandemic to afford a player like Kane, much less Mbappe or Haaland. The latter two at least promise years of elite production. How many does Kane have left?

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The other alternative is that there are no takers for a wantaway Kane, which means Spurs will have a disgruntled star playing for a manager most of the team would like to chuck from a moving truck off a bridge. And if it’s not this summer, fees for Kane are only going to decrease every one beyond that. There’s been a feeling for years that Kane was too big for his boyhood club, and would eventually have to move on to find one more befitting his talents. But he might have missed his window already.

Either way, Tottenham have huge problems. Without a Kane sale, how much money they have to improve the team is as unclear as it is for anyone else after a year of playing with no fans in attendance. Kane’s sale might provide enough money but too many spots to fill. And a sale of Kane might be a signal to Son or others that their ambitions won’t be met by Spurs either. Son will be 29 next season but can probably still secure a move to a Champions League club/one contending for trophies if he wants one. Then where will Tottenham be?

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Other clubs were able to remove Mourinho without losing their central organs along with him. But Spurs’ commitment to Mourinho, despite all the warning signs, might well have rotted them from the inside.

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.