In the hours after Tottenham Hotspur finally agreed they would sell Harry Kane to Bayern Munich, there was actually some doubt, and a lot to consider. The player’s camp now had to actually go through with a decision that had been a long time coming, which only made it all the heavier in the moment. There was still some thinking that Real Madrid or Manchester United, Kane’s first choice, might come in now they knew Levy’s price. Even he wanted that higher going into the final hours.
Those other bids didn’t happen, though, and it is now happening that Kane is leaving Spurs.
Some within White Hart Lane couldn’t make sense of it, even though it had long been anticipated. A player who was hailed as one of their own is no longer that. He’s gone. There is actually a sadness to that, in how the modern economy of football essentially forces players towards a narrow band of clubs. Spurs have once again been shown the reality of the game, although this is admittedly one where you can sympathise with some of the confusion.
None of this is to disparage Bayern, one of the game’s great clubs, of the status that it is a genuine privilege to play for them. It is an honour to be their number nine, following in the line of Gerd Muller, Jurgen Klinsmann and the player he most directly replaces in Robert Lewandowski.
In some ways, though, Bayern have been victims of the modern game as much as Spurs. Its distorted economics have given them a longer run of titles than they could have ever imagined, but with a cost. The more leagues they win, the less it means. Borussia Dortmund’s challenge last season should almost have been welcomed as it offered tension and significance. There’s then the manner that even Bayern have had to adapt to football’s new world, which is almost completely made up of the Premier League.
This is where the real intrigue of the entire Kane situation lies.
England’s captain and their greatest star has left England when it has become almost the only place to be in football. That’s an irony only deepened by how a player commonly seen as the next great star, and a future captain in Jude Bellingham, is also employed outside. That point shouldn’t be taken as an old-fashioned parochial view, since it has generally been a positive thing for players to go and sample other football cultures and countries. Kane himself will doubtless benefit from that. It is healthy, even on a human level.
The issue is how much the game has changed even in a decade. That world has become smaller and centred around England.
Broadcasting figures illustrate how the Premier League has become the biggest show in town, “a football NBA”, in the words of one major club chief executive.
“If you’re not there, you’re nowhere.”
Harry Kane’s move to Bayern Munich sees him move away from ‘the biggest show in town’ (PA Wire)
It’s not like Kane is going to Spain or Italy, either, the two most historically glamorous leagues that remain enriched by the nostalgia around them. Germany has always been the most unfashionable of the “big five”, although another consequence of the modern game is that term no longer really applies. It is the Premier League and some satellite clubs, one of them being Bayern.
They will almost certainly allow Kane to claim that first medal of his career, but does it have the same value? For Kane’s part, that won’t matter if he’s looking at that medal.
There’s also the fact that some of the more confusing aspects of this transfer are a logical consequence of how the game has gone. Levy is determined to gradually push Spurs into the elite bracket of super-clubs, even if so many supporters would fairly question the manner he goes about that. To the Tottenham chairman, though, it makes no sense to allow one of the clubs they see as direct rivals to strengthen at their expense. A club is always falling behind in that way.
It is where there is even more intrigue to this transfer, though. While the public perception has been that Levy did not want to sell, some in the industry believe it has been more driven from within Spurs than would be expected. This allows the club a degree of control over the transfer, as well as – crucially – income.
The great question from Kane’s part is why he has ceded that control. His leverage will never be greater. A contract with a year to go is the point of maximum opportunity for a player.
His first choice was clearly Manchester United. The entire England squad were talking about it in the June camp. He has instead given that power up.
That, admittedly, is partly about something greater. This isn’t about just getting Bundesliga titles, after all.
Kane’s move to Bayern takes him a step closer to winning trophies like the Champions League (PA)
Bayern have sold Kane a vision of winning the Champions League with him. They have quietly gone about building one of the most vibrant squads in Europe, but were just lacking experience last season as well as a finisher after Robert Lewandowski. They now have both in Kane.
Kane bringing them to a moment of completion such as Champions League glory would be worth it all. There is even the possibility that he could do two seasons at Bayern, then go back to the Premier League club of his choosing, given how he looks after his body.
This is another facet of Kane’s career. He sees Tom Brady as an idol, and is one of those who will do absolutely everything physically possible to maximise his talent. Except, many have long said, what is really necessary: go to a winning club.
That is now happening. There is an undeniable poignancy to it, that should be felt beyond Spurs. More clubs should be able to compete. It shouldn’t always be so inevitable that such players leave.
That is the nature of football’s economy now, as this transfer sums up, even if some of it seems to go against the modern game.