When the two greatest centre forwards in the Premier League come up against each other on Sunday, there will be more than just points and personal pride at stake.
For Harry Kane knows that were it not for Erling Haaland’s foresight in ensuring there was a fixed €60million (£54m) transfer fee clause into his Borussia Dortmund contract, it might well be Kane turning out in sky blue at the apex of Pep Guardiola’s team, benefitting from all those Kevin De Bruyne assists and anticipating the chance to win a Premier League title.
It was in the summer of 2021 that Kane broke cover and revealed he wanted to leave the club he had joined as a schoolboy in 2004. City would ultimately bid £100m for Kane but no more. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wasn’t budging at that price, Kane still had three years left on his contract and crucially no buy-out clause.
This summer, after what is likely to be two trophy-less years at Spurs, the same nagging dilemma will come round again. Kane will turn 30, acknowledged as one of the best players in the world and yet without ever having won a trophy.
Manchester United will endeavour to make him the pinnacle of their attack, that much is clear. He could set his sights on records such as Alan Shearer’s 260 Premier League goals. (Shearer scored 23 in the old First Division with Southampton, so 283 is the real total and the record for top-flight goals is Jimmy Greaves on 357).
Yet there will be another more intriguing option for Kane, one which might seem counter-intuitive given the Premier League’s utter domination of the transfer market but which certainly comes with its own historical benchmarks and almost guaranteed silverware.
Bayern Munich will summon up the warmest Bavarian welcome they can muster this summer, not just for Kane but also for his wife, Katie Goodwin and their three young children.
Bayern need a centre forward having lost Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona last summer. Former Stoke player Eric Choupu-Moting has performed superbly this season with 20 goals already but there is no doubt Bayern will look to strengthen and Kane will be their No 1 choice, if they can convince him. And they have form. They took Sadio Mane from Liverpool when he too had one year left on his deal last summer.
Leaving would mean giving up the chase for Shearer’s record. But there is something unique Bayern can offer. No Englishman has ever won the Torjagerkanone, the German equivalent of the Golden Boot.
Kevin Keegan was twice European footballer of the Year during his time at Hamburg from 1977-80, but his best season saw him fourth in the scoring charts with 17. Tony Woodcock scored 39 goals in 131 games for Koln between 1979-82 and 1986-1988 but never achieved the top scorer award. Jadon Sancho’s best was 18 in 2018-19.
And the hand Kane is playing is considerably stronger than two years ago. Kane hasn’t signed a new deal and shows no sign of doing so. He will have one year left on his contract and this will be Tottenham’s last chance to sell for big money before he leaves on a free.
With two fresh suitors and Kane’s performances at the World Cup, his ability in recent years to drop deep and link play, the quality of his passing over the top of defences, combined with his extraordinary goal-scoring means, if anything, he is more in demand.
Certainly in Bavaria he is appreciated and Bayern will give him the grand tour, the full works to convince him that teaming up with Mane to win the Bundesliga and hopefully the Champions League will leave him with enough medals in the next four years to make up for the last 10 years without any.
There is a southern suburb of Munich, Grunwald, a pretty market town with a castle and easy access to the Alps for day trips. It is everything a young family might want.
Certainly Bayern players think so. It’s just a few miles drive to the Sabener Strasse training ground. The likes of Jerome Boateng, Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery made their homes here during their time at Bayern. Former greats and later Bayern executives Franz Beckenbauer, Oliver Kahn and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have homes here.
Bayern emphasise they are a family club and that when a player joins, the entire family unit is embraced into an institution. Whether they be the traditional nights out at bierkellers during Oktoberfest, complete with lederhosen, or family barbeques with team-mates at Grunwald, the whole Kane clan would be welcomed.
Tony Woodcock, having made the journey from Nottingham Forest to FC Koln in 1979, is evangelical about the prospects of Kane testing himself in the Bundesliga and scoffs at those who might see it as stepping away from the main stage, pointing out Bayern’s prospects of Champions League success surpass United’s at present.
‘It’s definitely not a step down,’ says Woodcock. ‘When you pick the clubs you want to play for, of course there would be Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.’
The latter, less so for Kane. ‘Then it’s Barcelona, Real Madrid. And Bayern would be in that group. It’s not like you’re going to earn less – for the right player, Bayern pay.
‘And if you want a No 9 to play for you in the next two to four years, you go for Harry Kane. You can understand Bayern and their ambition. The main aim is the Champions League and that’s why they would want Harry. They want to be the best club in Europe and that is how he club is run.
‘It’s second to none. There are good teams in the Bundesliga and atmosphere in the stadiums is unbelievable. The lifestyle in Munich is great, it’s a wonderful place and a great city where you can also go up the mountains. They don’t take bad players to Bayern and if anyone has to chance to go, I would say: “Good luck to them!”’
The dilemma of Kane’s obvious love for Spurs and the need to pursue his career goals hasn’t gone away. ‘I don’t want to come to the end of my career and have any regrets, he said in 2020 in his infamous interview with Gary Neville. ‘I want to be the best I can be.’
Either on Sunday or soon he will break Jimmy Greaves’ club record, the pair tied on 266 goals each for Tottenham. But to end his career without regrets and with trophies, it looks increasingly likely the Spurs story is coming to an end, as it did for Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle and Gareth Bale, all of whom left for success abroad. Whilst Manchester might have a degree of familiarity, Munich is a city more familiar with Champions League success.
And if he can’t beat Shearer, surpassing Keegan as one of the greats of the English game, must be enticing. The only question that remains is just how good does Kane look in lederhosen.