Harry Kane has reportedly informed Tottenham Hotspur that he wants to leave the club this summer but he could hardly have chosen a worse time to do it.
The pandemic has severely limited the spending powers of most of Europe’s superclubs, while the apparent availability of Erling Haaland – and possibly even Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi – means Kane is no longer as in-demand as he once was.
What’s more, at nearly 28 years old it will be difficult for any of the big clubs to justify spending the roughly £120 million ($170m) needed to take him away from north London, and that’s assuming they would even want Kane in their first XI.
Manchester United are not focusing on signing a new striker after tying Edinson Cavani down. Chelsea and Manchester City are likely to prioritise Haaland. Real Madrid and Barcelona are in financial peril. Paris Saint-Germain have Neymar and Mbappe. Bayern Munich boast Robert Lewandowski.
But football is rarely logical, and this looks set to be a transfer saga that stretches deep into the off-season. Who knows what absurd loans and refinancing the Spanish giants will secure to make a marquee signing?
Plus, if the availability of Haaland, Mbappe, and Messi diminishes, then Kane could get his dream move.
Given that it’s impossible to predict who will go where in the merry-go-round, we’ve taken a look at which club would suit Kane best from a tactical perspective.
The ideal destination is the Etihad. Pep Guardiola has developed an aversion to centre forwards and that's primarily down to orthodox strikers being a bit one-dimensional for the swirling possession, positional rotation, and complex tactical demands that he puts on his players.
The City manager much prefers a playmaker converted into a false nine, thus allowing the attacker to drop into the No.10 position. Harry Kane is unique in world football in his ability to play like a nine and a 10 simultaneously; he is no so much a false nine as he is a true nine and true 10.
He is an almost unimaginably perfect Guardiola player: highly intelligent, extremely disciplined but spontaneous within tactical boundaries, absurdly creative, a perfect passer and an elite finisher.
Jose Mourinho managed to get the best out of Kane by giving him the freedom to roam where he pleased, and while Guardiola would set harsher limits, the Catalan would also coach the England captain in greater detail.
When you consider how many chances Man City make per game, Kane would hit frankly ridiculous goalscoring figures.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is closer to Mourinho than Guardiola in his tactical approach. The United manager certainly preaches expansive attacking football but he also expects his players to largely improvise their moves, and so in terms of pure enjoyment Kane might have a lot more fun at United than at City.
The downside to Solskjaer’s approach is that United can become sluggish and a bit directionless when up against a deep block. The upside is that there is plenty of room for individuals to be truly creative, so, just as Bruno Fernandes grabs games by the scruff of the neck, Kane would flourish in this environment.
It is worth noting how Edinson Cavani has changed United's build-up play. The Uruguayan regularly drops deep to provide the often flat Fred and Scott McTominay with a direct pass through the lines and, from here, he brings the forwards into play to progress his team up the pitch.
It has proved revolutionary for Solskjaer just as the attacking patterns were becoming stale. Just imagine what Kane would do in this role, roaming into the 10 space to demand the ball and interacting in close proximity to Fernandes.
Of all the English clubs likely to be in for Kane, Chelsea is the least comfortable fit. There is no doubt Thomas Tuchel would jump at the chance to work with Kane but his brand of sharp, vertical, in-the-transition football from the German school of tactics could expose Kane’s lack of pace.
Chelsea are heavy on numbers in central attacking midfield already, cramming bodies into this zone in order to create the passing angles that cut through defences after winning the ball high up the pitch.
What Chelsea really need is a rapid on-the-shoulder striker to feed. Kane’s propensity to drop, and his relative slow speed, would limit Chelsea’s capacity to win the ball in midfield and get into the box within a couple of seconds. Kane can play as a nine and a 10 almost simultaneously – but not literally at the same time.
Tuchel’s tactical blueprint for Chelsea’s future explains why Timo Werner is repeatedly picked despite missing so many chances; his movement and pace in behind are invaluable. It also explains why they are interested in Haaland, a player far better suited to the Tuchel project than Kane.
Mauricio Pochettino and Kane reunited: we know exactly what this would look like... or at least we do if Mbappe were to leave PSG.
It is incredibly difficult to see how Kane, Neymar and Mbappe could fit into the same team, even if Kane’s excellent pressing from the front would somewhat make up for the absence of work from the other two.
Both Neymar and Mbappe prefer to play centrally, and it is telling that in the latter rounds of the Champions League this season Pochettino developed a defensive system to exclude these two from defensive duties.
In a deep-lying 4-4-2, PSG were happy to be on the back foot against Manchester City and Bayern Munich, essentially giving up on expansive football because it would be suicidal to do so with those two strikers up the pitch.
With that in mind, how on earth do you fit in a third? There just isn’t room for Kane and, from his perspective, one would hope he has too much ambition to play in Ligue 1 at this stage in his career.
Zinedine Zidane is not quite the tactical dinosaur he is often made out to be. His battle plans are interesting and regularly change based on opposition weaknesses, and yet clearly the Real Madrid coach does not have the sort of geeky tactical mindset of a Tuchel or a Guardiola.
A move to the Santiago Bernabeu, then, would be pretty similar to a move to United: a good option if Kane wants to be a free-wheeling superstar.
Karim Benzema’s hold-up play and creative work outside the box is often understated, and as a long-term replacement for the 33-year-old, Kane would fit the bill precisely.
Then, there’s the obvious allure of being the latest Britain to become a Galactico, following in the footsteps of David Beckham and Gareth Bale, and Kane is absolutely the kind of player to thrive under the pressure – and the self-esteem boost – of being a big fish in a big pond.