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How Man City's move for Kane crumbled

22:00 BST 25/08/2021
Harry Kane Manchester City GFX
The Tottenham star had been City's top target to replace Sergio Aguero throughout the summer, but has now admitted defeat in his bid to leave Spurs

The summer's longest transfer saga has finally ended six days before the window shuts, but not in the way Manchester City hoped it would.

The Premier League champions wanted Harry Kane and the Tottenham striker wanted City. But after close to four months of speculation, the England captain has finally accepted it will not be happening.

"I will be staying at Tottenham this summer and will be 100 per cent focused on helping the team achieve success,” he tweeted at around lunchtime on Wednesday.

For Kane the future is simple: get back to scoring goals to win back the love of Spurs' supporters, who felt let down by his desperation to leave the club he joined as an 11-year-old.

But for City, the next step is less certain after missing out on a player that had remained their number one target throughout the summer.

Replacing Sergio Aguero was always the priority after the club's record goalscorer left on a free transfer for Barcelona in June after missing much of the 2020-21 season with injury.

City survived without Aguero for much of the campaign, winning the Premier League and reaching the Champions League final, but while Pep Guardiola has said they can cope without a recognised target man, he was expecting a top quality striker to arrive this summer.

Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland was a potential target, but the Bundesliga club insisted he was not for sale early on, and City still would have had to try and overcome their awkward relations with Haaland's agent Mino Raiola to get a deal over the line regardless.

Guardiola, meanwhile, was convinced in the quality of Kane, but getting him out of Tottenham was always going to be difficult, particularly given the task of taking on a notoriously tough negotiator in Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on football's finances has made for an uncertain transfer market, but prices have steadily increased as the deadline has drawn closer.

City ended up paying a British transfer-record fee of £100 million ($139m) for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish,  and Kane was always going to cost more than his England team-mate.

For Kane's part, he did everything he could to make it clear that he wanted out.

An interview where he expressed his desire to join a club that matched his ambition back in May was the fuel, while confusion over a late return to pre-season training and the revelation of a gentleman's agreement that he could leave this summer only stoked the flames.

Levy, however, was unmoved and, with three years remaining on his contract, Kane was forced to admit defeat over his dream move.

City too will move on, but they are short of time and options when it comes to getting a striker through the door before the transfer window closes on August 31.

Lionel Messi became available after Barcelona's failure to finance a new contract for their superstar captain, but the Argentine legend  moved quickly to Paris Saint-Germain for free without City getting involved.

If Kylian Mbappe gets his way and goes onto leave the Ligue 1 giants, meanwhile,  he looks destined for Real Madrid.

Romelu Lukaku was a possible alternative before Chelsea moved to the front of the queue to sign him from Inter, while Robert Lewandowski, who blossomed under Guardiola at Bayern Munich, is unlikely to leave the Allianz Arena despite rumours that he is keen to depart Bavaria in the near future.

In recent days, speculation has grown over a deal for Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and, while it has not been completely ruled out by City, it would appear to be a long shot.

Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes is trying to find a club for Bernardo Silva, who wants out of the Etihad Stadium, and sources have told Goal that he has offered the five-time Ballon d'Or winner to City to try and get both Portugal internationals moving.

Ronaldo is understood to be privately keen on a transfer to City, despite in the past having stated he would never play for Manchester United's cross-town rivals, while sources in Italy say has not openly asked to leave Juventus. Bianconeri boss Massimiliano Allegri even said that  Ronaldo told him he was "staying at Juventus".

There are plenty of reasons why Ronaldo would seem like a good alternative for City, not least because he has scored more than 30 goals in 11 of his last 12 seasons. But there are also downsides in signing a 36-year-old who is heading into the twilight years of his career.

His movement in pressing opponents and team ethic is not as good as Guardiola would want, while his wage demands could unbalance the dressing room.

Alternative options, though, are scant, and there are even fewer players at the club that can stop the Catalan coach from continuing with his current preferred false-nine system.

Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus has begun to look more effective as a winger, Ferran Torres is still learning the position after moving inside from a wide role, and highly-rated teenage striker Liam Delap cannot be put under too much pressure too early by being asked to provide goals on a regular basis despite his growing involvement with the first team.

Guardiola, therefore, was enigmatic when asked about the possibility of having the same squad for the remainder of the season after Saturday's 5-0 victory over Norwich City.

"When we decide to not sign a contract for Aguero and people say what we're going to do, I said many times, it will depend on the market, the options," he said. "Maybe we will buy or maybe we will not."

City sources insist they are happy with the squad, but Guardiola's side will face an even bigger test this season in holding off Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in the title race.

It seemed unfathomable that they would go into the season without a recognised striker. The only certainty now is that they will not have the man they wanted in Kane.