If they are unable to convince Antoine Griezmann to move to Old Trafford in the summer, Manchester United will move for Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, according to the Manchester Evening News.
United are reportedly willing to meet the Atlético Madrid man’s £85million buyout clause, and will offer to more than double the player’s current £112,000-per-week wages. But if the 25-year-old decides against joining international colleague and close friend Paul Pogba in Manchester, José Mourinho will instead set his sights on Kane.
The Spurs man would not represent a cheaper option, however. The north Londoners’ chairman Daniel Levy is a notoriously difficult man to negotiate with, and will be extremely reluctant to part with his star player as Tottenham prepare to move into a new stadium in 2018.
The fact that Kane penned a new £100,000-per-week contact at the tail end of 2016, committing his future to the White Hart Lane club until 2022, only strengthens Levy’s negotiating position.
A fee similar to that which it is claimed United will offer for Griezmann, or higher, would likely be required to secure Kane.
The two players bear little stylistic similarity to each other; it’s not as though moving on to targeting Kane is a natural progression if Griezmann is off the board.
Yet there is a case to be made that, given the personnel currently at Mourinho’s disposal, United’s current style and tactics all point towards the Englishman being a more suitable addition.
The 23-year-old Spurs striker might not have quite the same commercial appeal as Atleti’s French international superstar, but from a purely footballing point of view, Kane would be a better fit for United than Griezmann.
The Red Devils have been at their best this season when lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. Michael Carrick’s re-introduction into the side in October brought about a move away from their previous 4-2-3-1 and instantly sparked an uptick in results.
Mourinho has reverted to that shape when faced with inferior opposition at Old Trafford, but 4-3-3, with Carrick protecting the back four and Pogba in his favoured position on the left of a midfield three, has been his go-to set-up for the bigger games against tougher opponents.
In this system there is no natural position for Griezmann, who is at his best as a second striker, whereas Kane, a more traditional No.9, is perfectly capable of leading the line as a lone forward.
A tricky tactical adjustment would have to be made to fit Griezmann into the line-up without hamstringing Pogba with the additional defensive responsibility of playing in a double pivot at the base of midfield; no such tinkering would be required in order to integrate Kane.
Harry Kane has scored more goals excluding penalties (47) than any other Premier League player since January 2015.
— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) February 26, 2017
Of course, Zlatan Ibrahimović has played at the spearhead of United’s attack this season and, with 26 goals from 38 appearances, has been a revelation.
However, at 35, the veteran Swede cannot be regarded as a long-time solution for that position. Even if he extends his Old Trafford stay beyond the current campaign — something that is not yet certain – his involvement will surely have to be tapered down as he moves into his late 30s.
Kane may still be a hair short of Ibrahimović’s and Griezmann’s world-class pedigree, but he is improving all the time and already well on course to reach the upper echelons of the game.
There is even reason to believe that, although the former Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona striker has been prolific this term, Kane might have scored even more goals than Ibrahimović were he leading the line for United.
Kane’s shot accuracy is quite remarkable, finding the target with 63 per cent of his efforts in contrast to Ibrahimović’s average of 55 per cent.
The Three Lions star also requires fewer opportunities to score. Including blocked shots, Kane has aimed for goal a total of 63 times in the Premier League this term, scoring with 17 of those efforts for an incredible average of just 3.71 shots per goal.
By comparison, United’s No.9 is far less efficient. He has rattled off 103 attempts in the league this season, finding the net 15 times, which gives him an average of 6.87 shots per goal.
If we extrapolate these figures, had Kane taken as many shots as Ibrahimović, he’d have scored 28 goals in the Premier League alone. Now, obviously not all scoring chances are equal, so this is far from an exact science, but it does underline the younger man’s prowess in front of goal.
Even when adding Griezmann into the mix, Kane still comes out on top. The Frenchman has taken 57 total shots in La Liga this term – again, including blocked efforts – and has scored nine goals, giving him an average of 6.33 shots per goal.
The averages Ibrahimović and Griezmann are maintaining are by no means shabby. In fact, they are pretty much in keeping with most elite forwards – for example, Sergio Aguero has taken 7.27 for every goal scored this season, while Diego Costa’s return is 4.56.
However, the fact that Kane scores almost twice as many of his shots as the United man and his club’s reported primary target, suggests that he’d be well worth a significant bid in the summer.
Where Kane falls down, though, is when analysing his creativity. The 23-year-old former Leicester City and Millwall loanee has laid on 29 scoring opportunities for team-mates in the league this season, while Ibrahimović has created 43 chances and Griezmann 35.
But the Red Devils are not short of creative players on the whole. Mourinho already boasts such talents as Juan Mata, Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who are all capable of providing double figures for assists in a single campaign.
Plus, the 20-time champions have created 327 chances so far in 2016-17 — more than every other Premier League side except Liverpool (351) and Tottenham (337) — yet they only rank seventh in the division for goals scored. Creating opportunities is not an issue for United, taking them is.
Signing a mobile, well-rounded and constantly improving striker like Kane could take United to the next level in their post-Ferguson rejuvenation; they should do everything in their power to make it happen.