Man City’s £160m move and enraging Spurs: the ten worst attempts at forcing Levy into selling Kane

Matt Stead
Harry Kane shakes hands with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy
Harry Kane shakes hands with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy

The summer of 2021 is unrivalled in terms of transfer incompetence but no club seems to know how to persuade Daniel Levy and Spurs to sell Harry Kane.


10) Signing six-year contracts without release mechanisms
“I haven’t got a release clause, and I haven’t really thought about it. I’m fully committed to Spurs, so there is no reason to have one to be honest,” our sweet summer child once said, pointing out that “the transfer window could be a distraction” otherwise, although he’s “not been in that situation”.

That was Kane speaking in August 2017, when speculation around his future felt more like a box-ticking exercise than a legitimate long-term consideration. He was leading his boyhood club into a brave new era as part of an exciting young squad under a brilliant manager; no team could offer a cast-iron guarantee of anything better, let alone afford him.

But the naivety in not accepting that landscape might change has irrevocably altered the course of Kane’s career. He penned a six-year contract 10 months later with no release mechanism of any kind inserted, thus signing over an unhealthy chunk of his freedom directly to Levy.

In his time as a professional, Kane has accepted deals in 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Even lazily adding in a line of small print making an exit slightly more feasible at any point whatsoever could have avoided these excruciatingly tiresome stand-offs.


9) Trying to sign him when Spurs literally had no other strikers
No-one could possibly have had the foresight to envisage a scenario whereby Kane spent the majority of his career at Spurs, scored so very many goals and still won nothing. An absurd, preposterous, laughable thought for sure. Those serial silverware snatchers were bound to pick the odd trinket up at some point, thus fulfilling their end of the bargain.

Had the forward acknowledged that his brilliance might forever go tangibly unrewarded even before it truly took hold, he might have escaped those north London shackles long before Levy swallowed the key.

Man Utd were linked with Kane in the summer of 2015, smack bang in the middle of Louis van Gaal’s tedious revolution. The figure attached was £45m for a player who had suddenly registered a 30-goal season out of nowhere. But no formal bid was ever made, perhaps because Spurs had literally no other striker options at the time and Levy’s grip was tighter than it has ever been.

Emmanuel Adebayor had been ostracised by Mauricio Pochettino. Roberto Soldado was bound for a return to Spain. Clinton N’Jie joined from Lyon but was Clinton N’Jie. Spurs did sign Heung-min Son that summer, but he took time to become anything close to a reliable scorer. Kane was their sole choice and Man Utd had timed the genesis of their interest terribly.


8) Seeing Spurs as ‘a selling club’
Real Madrid were known to be tracking Kane at that time with a view towards ushering him down that well-trodden path from north London to the Bernabeu. But that was part of the problem: the Spanish giants regarded their Premier League counterparts as ‘a selling club’ by that point, according to one Daily Mail report from the time, and the child in Levy has never held one of his toys closer. By then, it was as much about not letting anyone else play with Kane.

The immense success Real had enjoyed when signing Luka Modric and Gareth Bale – and the unthinkable glory they had experienced after leaving Spurs – was rendered irrelevant by that perceived slight.


7) Telling Spurs they have no other choice
Using the media to publicly inform Levy just how hilariously ludicrous his football club is, and how he has no choice but to sell Kane to them, a far superior football club, is a bizarrely frequently deployed tactic. And it works about as well as insulting and belittling someone before asking if they want to do business should.

Spurs are hilariously ludicrous. That is fair. But don’t tell the actual Daniel Levy he has no agency over a decision. He is a) human, b) a high-powered executive and c) Daniel Levy. The man will only double down in his convictions.

So next time Bayern Munich want to extricate Kane from a Tottenham contract, they might not want to wheel out tax evasion’s Uli Hoeness to confidently declare “we’ll get him” because the player has already agreed to join them and thus Spurs “will have to buckle” as “he now has another opportunity to come to a top club in Europe”.


6) Bidding £60m
It is also unadvisable to open at £60m, unless you have a thing for immediate rejection. No judgement here, like.


5) Leaking stories to the media
Amateurish and lacking in finesse though Bayern’s approach has been, the Kane camp has been pointedly calm and collected, remaining publicly open to every option up to and including staying at Spurs.

It is a slightly different technique to that which they used in their previous push to escape north London. Oh, the fabled 2021 summer of Charlie Kane immediately showing his hand, covering it in his only client’s excrement and then clapping into the void for three straight months.

The opening gambit was a media leak orchestrated shortly before the end of the 2020/21 season. Spurs had two Premier League games to play and European qualification was not guaranteed, but on the eve of the first of those matches it was reported by Sky Sports that the club was ‘willing to consider the feelings’ of the striker, who had ‘again told’ them he wanted to leave before the European Championships that summer. The very best of luck to you.

That was followed by carbon-copy stories in the following day’s newspapers; the only thing missing from each was a Kane byline. It achieved nothing beyond winding Spurs up – not something that should ever be disregarded, but equally a sub-optimal result in the grand scheme of things.


4) Crying about a gentleman’s agreement
The problem Team Kane had was that six-year deal eagerly signed in 2018, of which only half had been served. With nothing close to a leg to stand on, their only semblance of leverage was a vague ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that somehow did not actually override contract law.

Those same channels were used again to express frustration at Levy reneging on a promise the Spurs chairman denied ever making, which Kane and his representatives alleged was that he would be sold if Spurs failed to qualify for the Champions League and win a trophy, provided that a suitable offer was made.

While the first two criteria were impeccably achieved despite Kane’s 33 goals and 17 assists in 49 games, the third was never forthcoming. And that rather undermined the concerted push.

Spurs striker Harry Kane has interest from Bayern Munich
Harry Kane has interest from Bayern Munich


3) Skipping training (or not)
This was all played out against the backdrop of Kane failing to report for scheduled pre-season tests after a post-Euros holiday in the Bahamas. It was an uncharacteristic play for bargaining power from a bastion of professionalism and honesty, if indeed it was a play at all.

Kane claimed the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He eventually broke his silence after almost a week of back-and-forth speculation to say: “While I won’t go into the specifics of the situation, I want to clarify that I would never, and have never, refused to train. I will be returning to the club tomorrow, as planned.”

But why was the story allowed to run unfiltered for so long if it was just a case of crossed wires. One statement from a Kane representative on his behalf could have cleared the matter instantly. It was one last forlorn push of Levy’s buttons, but while Spurs discussed fines and other punishments, it moved the ultimate reward of a Manchester City move further away.


2) Playing golf with Gary Neville
“I’m sure that he’ll want to set out the plan of where he sees it but ultimately it’s going to be down to me and how I feel and what’s going to be the best for me and my career in this moment in time,” Kane said in May 2021, pretending he hadn’t handed absolute control to Levy three years before.

That revealing burst of self-importance, the declaration of independence from an entirely owned entity, came over a round of interminably long golf with Gary Neville. Kane was careful to never outwardly demand a transfer, but spoke candidly enough about being at a “crossroads”, wanting to avoid any career “regrets”, winning trophies and how Kevin de Bruyne was “a striker’s dream” for there to be enough lines to read between.

Yet again, it only infuriated Levy and strengthened his resolve not to budge.


1) The Blue Wedding
Preserved in all its glory, the single worst attempt ever at strong-arming an owner into selling a player. Hopefully the Kanes have actually consulted prospective buyers this time and established a fee they would be willing to offer. It would be a start.