After 14 years of loyal service to Tottenham, it looks like Harry Kane will finally be moving onto pastures new this summer. Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are among those to have registered interest in the 29-year-old, but Bayern Munich are currently leading the race for his signature.
It has been reported that the Bundesliga champions have reached an agreement in principle with Kane's representatives, after seeing an opening £60m ($77m) bid for the forward rejected by Spurs. Bayern are set to return with an improved offer, and Tottenham may have little choice but to cash in, or else risk losing Kane for free when his contract expires next summer.
For a long time, it seemed as though Manchester United would be Kane's landing spot if he left Tottenham. Erik ten Hag has made it clear he is desperate to bring in a new No.9, having seen his side struggle for goals throughout the 2022-23 campaign.
Daniel Levy's reluctance to sell to a direct rival is no secret, which is why the Spurs chairman reportedly demanded over £100m ($127m) for Kane after United made initial enquiries over his availability earlier this year. And the Red Devils are simply not willing to spend that much.
United haven't been shy when it comes to shelling out huge fees in the recent past, with the likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho and Antony all brought in for fees exceeding £70m ($88m). But they won't make the same level of investment in Kane - arguably the greatest striker in the history of English football.
Bayern are in the clear to complete a huge coup, and if they do seal a deal for the Tottenham striker, they'll be genuine Champions League contenders next season. United, meanwhile, are making a huge mistake by standing back and letting it happen.
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Still at his peak
One of the reasons United have reportedly baulked at Levy's valuation of Kane is because of his age, with the Spurs marksman set to celebrate his 30th birthday later in July. But he hasn't shown any sign of slowing down on the pitch.
In fact, the 2022-23 campaign was probably his best yet in a Tottenham shirt, despite the fact he was leading the line for a disjointed team lacking quality in all other areas of the pitch. Kane reached the 30-goal mark in the Premier League for the second time in his career, and only finished six goals behind Manchester City's scoring machine Erling Haaland in the Golden Boot race.
Haaland also won the PFA Player of the Year ahead of Kane, but the Norwegian couldn't really fail in Pep Guardiola's set-up. City stormed to the treble last season, and while Haaland deserves great credit for his finishing, he had world-class providers such as Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish putting chances on a plate for him.
Kane, meanwhile, carried Spurs with his outstanding individual performances. They ended up in eighth place purely because of his superhuman efforts - and it's not a stretch to say they would have edged towards the relegation zone without him.
There are plenty of great players that have been able to prolong their careers at the highest level well into their thirties in the modern era. In Kane's position, the man he could soon replace at Bayern, Robert Lewandowski, won the Pichichi award for the top scorer in La Liga last season as he fired Barcelona to the title in his first season at the club.
The 35-year-old Karim Benzema only finished with four goals fewer than Lewandowski (19) in his final season at Real Madrid, having landed his maiden Ballon d'Or in December on the back of his 44-goal haul the previous campaign. Both players have looked after themselves physically and showed the discipline necessary to ensure longevity.
And so has Kane. The England international could quite easily make the starting line up for any top club in the world over the next four to five years. United's caution when it comes to Kane, then, makes absolutely no sense. There might be cheaper options out there to fill a centre-forward berth, but there is no one better.
Premier League king
"If Harry wants to join Bayern, I'll drive his f*cking car there myself; anything to protect my Premier League goalscoring record," Alan Shearer said in a recent article for The Athletic. Kane currently has 213 Premier League goals to his name, which puts him just 47 behind the former Newcastle and Blackburn forward's all-time record mark. If he were to stay at Spurs, Kane would undoubtedly go on to break Shearer's mark.
But if Kane went to United, he could potentially smash it. Ten Hag's squad is in far better shape than Tottenham's after a positive maiden year at Old Trafford for the Dutch coach. The Red Devils lifted the Carabao Cup and came third in the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League, before suffering defeat to City in the FA Cup final. Players such as Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw all stepped up their game, while new signings Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez added a new dimension to the team.
Ten Hag could ideally do with a new goalkeeper to replace the declining David de Gea, but their top priority must be to sign a top-quality centre-forward. If United could prise Kane away from Spurs, they'd be guaranteed title contenders in 2023-24. Kane would be the definition of a transformative signing. He's not just Premier League proven - he's the king of the competition.
So often last season, United's final ball failed to match their slick, incisive build-up play, and that's because they had no one getting into the right positions. They also were also the most wasteful side in the league, missing 50 big chances in total. If they swallowed their pride and forked out on Kane, those issues would be solved. Not least because the England captain is motivated to go past Shearer.
“For sure it’s something I want to do. I think whenever you get close to these types of records, all it does is drive you, to try and achieve them," Kane told Sky Sports in May. "In a couple of years we will see where I am at and how close I am but now I am this close to it, for sure it is something I would love to achieve."
United have long been linked with Kane, and West Ham's Declan Rice, who also appears to have fallen off their radar due to his price tag - with Arsenal set to sign him for a British-record fee. But while away with the duo on England duty for the latest set of Euro 2024 qualifiers, Shaw welcomed the prospect of linking up with his international team-mates at club level.
"I would love a few of them to join - I am not going to lie," said the United defender. "I am speaking to them, telling them how good Manchester is, because I know their qualities. I know they are world-class players and they would be a massive help to us but I can only say so much. If it was down to me, I'd take them in a heartbeat."
Rashford, Harry Maguire, Sancho and Aaron Wan-Bissaka also play alongside Shaw at Old Trafford, while Chelsea's Mason Mount is also on the verge of joining Ten Hag's ranks. The addition of Kane would complete United's English contingent nicely.
He'd have no problems making the transition from London to Manchester with his countrymen on hand to help him settle in. The connection between Kane, Rashford and Shaw, in particular, was clear to see in England's 7-0 win over North Macedonia at Old Trafford.
Kane opened the scoring after Rashford found Shaw running into the far side of the box with a deft through ball, and the left-back provided a perfect cut-back for the Tottenham striker to convert with ease from eight yards out. Kane then went on to have a big hand in Rashford's third goal for the Three Lions after pressing to win the ball back deep in opposition territory.
The Spurs talisman already has a great relationship on and off the pitch with United's English players. And a player of his talents is even capable of going down in the United history books. The list of the best English players to have played at Old Trafford includes icons such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney - who is United's all-time top goalscorer. Kane would no doubt stake a claim to be mentioned in the same breath if he joined the club, even if it was only for a short period.
Ten Hag is a big fan
Ten Hag became a master at dodging transfer questions towards the end of last season, which is a useful skill for any United manager. No club in world football generates more rumours about potential new additions, but the Dutchman has given nothing away when it comes to his preferred targets.
Kane was top of the agenda before United's 2-2 draw at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in April, and Ten Hag was typically tight-lipped when asked if the centre-forward could fit into his team. "I am preparing my team for a game against Spurs," said the United boss. "He is one of the players that we have to face from Spurs, so I don't think about anything else."
However, Ten Hag couldn't resist expressing his admiration towards Kane before leaving his press conference seat: "The number of goals, and also his key actions [that] come to a goal, final passes as well, he is just a great player, great personality as well." And naturally, Ten Hag's praise set the stage for a sublime Kane performance.
Spurs' all-time record goalscorer played in a deeper role against United, and was the driving force behind their second-half fightback from a two-goal deficit. Kane provided an inch-perfect pass for Son Heung-min to bring the hosts back into the game before also playing a key role in Pedro Porro's equaliser as Ten Hag saw his side capitulate in midfield.
Kane is one of the best marksmen in the business due to his ability to sniff out chances and finish emphatically with both feet and his head. But he's also a fantastic all-round player, which is exactly why he'd be such a great fit for Ten Hag's side. The United tactician wants a No.9 who is equally as comfortable with his back-to-goal as he is when facing it; someone that can bring others in to play and have the technical quality to execute defence-splitting passes.
Time and time again last season, Kane led by example while the rest of his Spurs team-mates allowed their standards to drop. It would be a different story for him at Old Trafford, where he'd be backed up by plenty of hungry, forward-thinking players capable of making the most of his creativity.
Kane might not be the quickest striker in the world, but he more than makes up for it with his movement off the ball and decision-making on it. He's exactly what United need, which is why their trepidation over getting involved in proper negotiations with Spurs is so difficult to understand.
Lack of alternatives
Of course, Kane is not the only forward to have been strongly linked with United in recent months. Napoli's Victor Osimhen and Eintracht Frankfurt sensation Randal Kolo Muani were reportedly identified as Ten Hag's top two alternatives after Spurs' revealed their valuation of Kane. The problem is, both men are also considered to be £100m ($127m) players by their respective clubs. Osimhen scored 26 goals to fire Napoli to the Serie A title last term, while Kolo Muani managed 40 goal contributions in his debut season at Eintracht.
They're both only 24 years old, too, meaning their peak years are still very much ahead of them. It's understandable that Napoli and Eintracht will only sell for fees that would allow them to sign a replacement while also potentially strengthening in other areas of the pitch.
United have also been credited with an interest in Benfica's Goncalo Ramos, who upstaged Red Devils legend Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2022 World Cup with Portugal. The 22-year-old is reportedly available for £80m ($102m) this summer, but such an amount would represent a huge gamble given his lack of experience at the very highest level.
With United seemingly priced out of moves for Osimhen, Kolo Muani, Ramos, and indeed Kane, they have turned their attention to a more affordable option in the form of Atalanta's Rasmus Hojlund. According to reports, the Italian club have already knocked back a £31m ($39m) opening offer for the Denmark international, but there is an expectation that United can seal the deal for around £40m ($51m).
Hojlund has been compared to Haaland in some circles, but the truth is, the 20-year-old is still very much a raw talent with a lot to learn. He only scored nine league goals for Atalanta last season, and doesn't have the necessary experience to lead the line for United week in, week out.
None of the other strikers to emerge on United's radar hold a candle to Kane in reality. He's the only one who can boast real Premier League pedigree, which is a crucial factor when you consider how far ahead the English top flight is of the rest of Europe's top leagues right now.
Now or never
If United don't push for Kane again this summer, it's safe to say that he will never grace the hallowed Old Trafford turf. If Kane is going to leave Tottenham, it has to be now. Should the experienced front-man opt to remain with Spurs for the 2023-24 campaign, it's inevitable that a new contract would follow. Levy won't let it get to the stage where his prized asset could leave the club as a free agent.
And it has been reported that Kane would be open to an extension. Indeed, he appeared to outline his vision for the future at Tottenham during a recent interview with Sky Sports, saying: "I always give my all for the team and for the club. I think off the pitch to have those conversations with the chairman and the staff here and try to give my opinion on some of the things that I think can help us just be more consistent and more successful in the culture that we try to set.
"I always think you're never too far away from being competitive with the right people, but also, you're never too far away from dropping down to 10th or 11th place in the Premier League because that is the standard. It's an important moment for the club, to feel a connection again with the fans, who I know have been frustrated with these moments. We need to try to build that relationship back up and try to push all in the same direction."
If Kane cannot be convinced to leave Tottenham this summer, he will almost certainly go on to finish his career as a one-club man. At the moment, it seems that Bayern are the only side ready to do what it takes to alter his path.
It doesn't really matter whether he stays at Spurs or heads to Germany from a United point of view. Either way, they will be destined to regret not doing everything within their power to sign English football's number one commodity.
Kane is going to continue scoring goals and breaking records wherever he plays. Without him, United's long struggle to return to the very top of the game will continue to drag on.