The chances of Harry Kane leaving the club he joined as an 11-year-old seems more realistic now than ever before with the England international having indicated that he is ready to leave Tottenham in pursuit of trophies.
One of the great forwards of his generation he would not be short of suitors if only his price tag were not prohibitive to all but the wealthiest of clubs in Europe. Spurs have not set a price for a player they do not want to sell but even if that stance were to change it is hard to see them even entertaining offers of less than $170 million (£120 million). That makes for a select group of clubs who could come up with such funds.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United are all said to hold an interest in Kane and there has been additional speculation that Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino is looking to reunite with the player he forged into a star at White Hart Lane. Which of those four -- or a possible wildcard -- makes sense for Kane and could be able to tempt Spurs? We examine below:
Perhaps Kane's most underappreciated attribute is his ability to adapt to those around him and tailor his game to his fellow forwards. Goal scoring force he may be, but Kane runs an everybody eats offense... and in the last few years at Tottenham he has been doing everything from setting the table to slicing up the options.
That is exactly the sort of player Chelsea need to meld together their talented but at times awkwardly fitted frontline, one that has produced eight fewer goals (55) than any other team in the top six. Both Thomas Tuchel and Frank Lampard have struggled to build partnerships across their attack that work consistently across a series of games. If nothing else Kane, within Roman Abramovich's considerable reach financially, offers Tuchel a clear point of reference around who to fit his other exorbitantly talented forwards.
Timo Werner is not a natural lead striker and would surely relish a team-mate like Kane, one who can drag defenders deep and open up the same lanes for the German to dart into that Heung-min Son has exploited so successfully on Spurs. Meanwhile Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech would have a player they could bounce off, one who could operate as much as a ball to feet target man as a finisher.
Equally, the likes of Ziyech and Reece James would have a player to aim crosses at who is not far off Olivier Giroud in terms of aerial threat. Indeed in the past five seasons of Premier League football no-one matches Kane's 18 headed goals (naturally he also tops the division for right-footed goals and is even in the top four on his weaker left boot).
Since Didier Drogba's effectiveness dwindled, Chelsea have never quite found a number 9 they and their manager truly believed in for the long term, although it would be unwise to argue against Diego Costa if he claimed otherwise. At a stroke Kane changes that and burgeons the Blues' case to be title contenders over the coming years.
The issue is that while some Spurs fans could sympathize with his desire to spread his wings in his final prime years they would not be so understanding if he went from north London to west, pitching up at the home of a club whose enmity with Tottenham has grown dramatically in recent years. It was Chelsea that kept Pochettino's side from the Premier League summit in their best seasons. It would be hard to forgive Kane if he did not even leave the capital.
2. Manchester United
While the road from White Hart Lane to Stamford Bridge is rarely travelled, Spurs fans might not feel the same sense of betrayal if Kane were to leave them for Manchester United. After all it is a well-trodden path taken by the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov. Sir Alex Ferguson and his colleagues did not find negotiating with Daniel Levy to be a remotely pleasant experience in any of those deals but in the end they got their way.
At United Kane would add everything that Chelsea need from him and would be a relatively comfortable fit into the recruitment model at Old Trafford where there is a desire to sign young, energetic, attack-minded English talent. At nearly 28 he perhaps does not fit that first category but he would fit nicely alongside Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood among others. When pitted against an inconsistent Anthony Martial and an ageing Edinson Cavani Kane is a clear upgrade and with the latter he would have the sort of top tier back-up option or potential strike partner that Spurs could never find for him.
Indeed it is hard to make a case against United signing Kane. It perhaps just feels less immediately essential that they buy a striker than any of the other clubs. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have scored 70 goals this season, a tally bettered only by Manchester City and are blessed with options high up the pitch. What seems to be holding them back from competing at the highest level is a weak stable of defensive-minded midfielders and perhaps a better partner for Harry Maguire. A more attack-minded alternative to Aaron Wan-Bissaka would not go amiss.
If United secured all that and Kane they would look like a team that can fulfil the England captain's ambitions. But adding just another striker to this squad may place Kane in a higher-brow version of his current quandary, playing for a team that gives him the platform to show his individual qualities without ever really looking like they can win the biggest prizes.
3. Manchester City
If it is that silverware that Kane wants there can be few safer bets than whichever team Pep Guardiola is managing. Manchester City won the Premier League this season despite largely doing without a central striker and will be down to Gabriel Jesus alone when Sergio Aguero departs at the end of the season. Though the Argentine eventually won his manager over it is worth remembering that early in Guardiola's reign he had doubts about Aguero, who was the sort of orthodox center forward that he had fazed out at Barcelona.
Kane might once have been more Aguero-esque but he is not that anymore. Not only is he neck-and-neck with Mohamed Salah as the Premier League's leading scorer this season but he is also well-placed to hold off Bruno Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne to be named the Playmaker of the Season with 13 assists to his name. In part that was down to a ludicrous early season hot streak in tandem with Son (Kane has only three league assists since the start of 2021) he is still ninth in fbref's expected assists ranking for the year, which tracks the likelihood that any shooting chance created by a player leads to a goal.
As he looks to hold off De Bruyne for the prize of the Premier League's leading creator there is something intriguing about the similarities between the two this season. The Belgian has often played as a center forward for City in their biggest games this season and done so in the manner you might imagine Kane would, a roving playmaker-cum-shot taker that is altogether more involved in the build-up than a more traditional striker. Indeed compared to Erling Haaland, the other star attacker consistently linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium, Kane seems a more comfortable footballing fit even if he does not come with the promise of 10 years at the top of the scoring charts that the Norwegian offers.
This would seem to be the perfect move for Kane and City and it should be noted that the latter have long held an interest in the England international. The only potential fly in the ointment is that for all the wealth of their owners City have never spent the sort of sum that would be required to even bring Tottenham to the negotiating table. Their record signing, Ruben Dias, cost them around half what Kane would cost them and in April Guardiola claimed it was "impossible" for the club to sign a replacement for Aguero at the prices being quoted for top talent. Evidently that is not quite true and the simple fact that City have never spent such sums before does not mean they would not or cannot. But the potential impact of spending around $200 million on a player (and giving him a wage commensurate with that fee) will not be lost on the club.
4. Paris Saint-Germain
If there is one club that has not shied away from spending big on forwards it is Paris Saint-Germain, who would surely delight in placing Kane between Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to create a frontline with yet more different ways of beating opponents. There is also no manager better qualified to develop the striker than Pochettino, who gave Kane his big break in the Premier League.
As for Tottenham, if they felt they had no choice but to acquiesce to Kane's demands this is the sort of deal they would favor: out of sight and out of mind. There would be no weekly reminders of their failure to build a team fit for their academy graduate and his return journeys to north London would be at most infrequent.
However it still seems the most unlikely of the four avenues that are seriously open to Kane as things stand. PSG have striking issues of their own to consider from Mbappe's new contract and the future of Moise Kean to the travails of Mauro Icardi. Then there is the matter of balancing the player's desire for team success and individual accolades.
Kane will be acutely aware that he can make up the 95 goals he needs to overtake Alan Shearer as the Premier League's record goal scorer while also competing for more of the trophies that matter to him and his club. At PSG the Champions League carries the greatest weight and though the Parisians will always be among the contenders there is a strong possibility that several years in France could see Kane accrue a boatload of Ligue 1 and Coupe de France medals without him grasping the prizes he hankers for.
Usually when a star Premier League player has grown unhappy the next step is obvious: head to Spain to prove yourself with Real Madrid or Barcelona. Not anymore. Neither have the funds to pay what Tottenham would want as things stand. The same would be true of Juventus even if they were to scrape into the Champions League. Bayern Munich have made clear their commitment to Robert Lewandowksi and that is largely that for European clubs who would be in serious contention.
For obvious reasons Arsenal is a no go and Liverpool would likely find Kane out of their price range unless they sold one of their front three. Mohamed Salah has been linked with a move to PSG if Mbappe leaves but even then Kane is not the natural replacement.
In other words, options are limited for the player but perhaps more so for Spurs. They can hold on to a player who does not want to be there should they wish and trust that their favorite son would not burn bridges to get the move he wants. But if they feel unable to keep hold of Kane they will have to reckon with the reality that he is unlikely to be moving far away.