Today’s match felt like a crucial one – not only for this season, but for how it could shape the coming years for Tottenham Hotspur.
After losing 3-1 at home to Manchester United, Spurs is 7th, six points off the Champions League qualification places with seven matches to play. Qualification before this match looked unlikely, now it looks virtually impossible.
While there is no disgrace in losing to the team in second, this was another match where Spurs failed to defend a lead. The club has now dropped 18 points from winning positions this season.
Failure to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition will not only have a detrimental effect on the club’s finances. It will also raise big questions for the Spurs hierarchy this summer.
Will Kane stay or go?
According to a report from The Athletic, Spurs talisman Harry Kane is ready to leave the club where he is the second-highest scorer in history if it fails to qualify for the Champions League.
Kane is Spurs’ most important player and losing him would be a huge blow. Spurs is not a one-man team, but it would be a far weaker team without that man.
It would also send a negative message to fans that are growing disgruntled with performances this season. Spurs has sold stars before – Luka Modric, Dimitar Berbatov and Gareth Bale for example – but Kane is different. He came up through the ranks at Spurs and, as the fans sing, is “one of our own”. He is a club legend and, on an individual basis, irreplaceable.
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Of course, wanting to leave does not mean it will happen. As The Athletic report points out, there are very few clubs that could afford to pay the fee Spurs chairman Daniel Levy would demand for Kane. Even if a Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain was willing to make a big offer – in a market likely to be depressed by the impact of the pandemic – Spurs could reject it.
Kane, you suspect, would be unlikely to make a big fuss and risk doing too much damage to his relationship with the club he loves. If a suitable offer does not arrive, he will still give his all for the team.
Should Mourinho be backed?
There is an argument, though it wouldn’t be a popular one among the vast majority of Spurs fans, that the club should sell Kane, who turns 28 in July, if a big offer arrives.
With a new stadium to pay off, which has sat largely empty since the pandemic, Spurs could certainly use the money to pay down debts while still investing in new players. If this did happen, would Levy trust current coach Jose Mourinho to oversee a squad rebuild?
It is fair to say many Spurs fans would be happy to see Mourinho sacked in the summer. Spurs have fallen badly since being top of the league in December and the team’s style of play is not the attractive, attacking approach Tottenham fans crave. There have also been signs in recent weeks that Mourinho’s confrontational style has unsettled some of the squad. More than once he has publicly questioned his own players.
Levy took a gamble when he hired Mourinho in November 2019, betting the Portuguese would deliver Spurs its first trophy since 2008. That could still happen when it plays Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final later this month. But, while any piece of silverware would be welcome, the club wants to be competing for the biggest prizes.
If Levy decides Mourinho is not the man to take Spurs forward, he will essentially be admitting a big mistake and have a costly payoff to make.
A possible but complicated solution many fans would favor is sacking Mourinho (and paying the considerable compensation he would reportedly be due) for a new coach. Julian Nagelsmann of RB Leipzig would be a popular choice and the hope would be he could convince Kane to give it at least another season under a new leader.
I have previously asked what would represent a successful season for Spurs. Kane and his teammates would clearly love to get their hands on some silverware but he also wants to be playing in the Champions League every season and challenging for domestic honors. Even if Spurs finishes 5th or 6th and wins the Carabao Cup this season, Champions League qualification feels like the bigger achievement.
With Spurs unlikely to make it this season, the club has big decisions to make in the summer. It must decide which path leads to success and convince its star player the club is on the right one.