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If Harry Kane Truly Wants Out, He Has to Be Willing to Become the Bad Guy

The Tottenham star clearly loves the club despite wanting to go elsewhere, but his refusal to use whatever leverage he may have is not helping his cause.

Two things can be true: Harry Kane can love Tottenham, and he can also see that, at this point in his career, his best chance at winning a major trophy means going to a different club.

One other thing can be true: Kane appears to have a gross misunderstanding of how to leverage his position to secure the exit he desires.

Coming off a season when he led the Premier League in goals (23) and assists (14), and coming off a summer when he helped captain England to the Euro 2020 final, Kane remains in the prime of his career. That’s why, despite his turning 28 a few weeks ago, Man City appears willing to break the English transfer record for the second time this summer to make him its star striker—and it’s also why Tottenham is reluctant to part ways with its attacking fulcrum, especially if it means sending him to a direct competitor. But Kane still wants out regardless. Tottenham’s 1–0 win over Man City, a victory achieved without Kane in uniform and one that opened the new season in front of a raucous home crowd, is unlikely to alter his big-picture thinking. Yet, save for financial reasons, Tottenham has no motivation to sell, and by continuing to take half measures, Kane isn't exercising the little bit of leverage that he may still have.

Harry Kane clapping

Kane’s six-year contract, signed in 2018, still has three years to run on it. He’s in no position to force his way out. Given what he's done for the club, perhaps he's thinking that it’ll do right by him if he expresses a desire for a change of scenery—he reportedly feels he has a "gentleman’s agreement" with chairman Daniel Levy that would achieve just that—but that's a pretty big hunch. It's especially big for a club that has little time at this juncture to immediately reinvest whatever sizable fee he would draw and one that remains focused on contending for the top four following a disappointing seventh-place finish last season. 

It was that finish that helped provide the impetus for his desire to leave.

“I think it’s definitely a conversation to be had with the club. I want to be playing in the biggest games. The biggest moments,” Kane told former English star and current Premier League pundit Gary Neville in a wide-ranging, candid May 2021 interview. “Like, this season I’m there watching the Champions League, watching the English teams in there doing amazing.

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“They are the games that I want to be involved in. I want to be in them games. So for sure, it’s a moment in my career where I have to kind of reflect and see where I’m at and have a good, honest conversation with the chairman. I hope we can have that conversation. I’m sure he’ll want to kind of 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 at this moment in time.”

Regardless of whether any conversation is or has been had, save for Kane’s making a public show of dismay and refusing to train or be a part of the squad, it’s hard to see how Tottenham will change its stance before the transfer window closes. Kane has never taken on the “bad guy” role. He’s revered in the Spurs corner of North London and represents England's resurgence on the international level. The adoration suits him well, and he’s an extremely well-liked and humble superstar. To join the Evil Empire, though, he’ll have to go full dark side.

It doesn’t appear like that’s going to be happening. Kane rejoined his teammates for training on Tuesday and has been named in manager Nuno Espírito Santo’s 25-man squad for the Europa Conference League playoff round against Portugal’s Paços de Ferreira. The irony and symbolism of Kane’s being a company man and suiting up in a new, third-tier European competition because it’s the right thing to do, even though it could cost him his chance at competing at the highest level this season, shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

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(UPDATE: While named in Nuno's squad, Kane has not traveled to Portugal for Thursday's first leg, according multiple to reports. He is still eligible to play in the second leg next week and is expected to be in uniform for Sunday's Premier League match at Wolves.)

Harry Kane wants to leave Tottenham

Others in his position may be a bit more selfish and more narrowly focused on the intent to leave, but that doesn’t seem to be Kane’s M.O. Even mere reports that suggested he was dodging the club and its preseason preparations after he returned from his summer break didn’t sit well with him.

“It’s almost 10 years since I made my Spurs debut,” Kane tweeted less than two weeks ago. “For every one of those years, you—the fans—have shown me total support and love. That's why it hurts to read some of the comments that have been made this week, questioning my professionalism. 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. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the relationship I have with fans who have given me such unwavering support during my time with the club. This has always been the case as it is today.”

It’s entirely possible that as the Premier League transfer window gets closer to closing on Aug. 31, City will present an offer that Tottenham simply cannot refuse. At a certain point, every player has his price, and City is one of three clubs in the world at the moment that seemingly has no problem coming up with the funds to reach that point. If Tottenham opens the door even a little, then City will pry it further with its stacks of cash.

“Harry Kane is an exceptional, extraordinary striker, no doubts about that. Of course we are very interested in him,” Man City manager Pep Guardiola said recently. “But he is a Tottenham player, and if they don’t want to negotiate then [there is] nothing more to say. If they want it, we will try. That’s all.”

Short of that, and short of Kane’s putting up a bigger fight that could wind up tarnishing his reputation among the supporters of his boyhood club and alter the legacy of his time there—things that on the surface appear important to him—it’s difficult to see his wish getting granted.

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