Manchester City are one of the most successful teams in football history, but they have been struggling to find a consistent goalscorer. They recently sold Sergio Aguero and their current strikers aren’t doing much better. With Harry Kane now injured, who could replace him?
Man City needed Harry Kane, so who do they turn to now? Ronaldo? Haaland? Mbappe?
First it was Lionel Messi, and now it’s Harry Kane. At Manchester City, manager Pep Guardiola has grown accustomed to missing out on his top targets, and make no mistake, he will regard Kane’s departure from Tottenham as more damaging to his club’s chances of success than his failure to persuade Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona for the Etihad Stadium a year ago.
Messi was always a vanity project for City, a chance to enhance the club’s international profile by signing perhaps the best player in history. Kane, on the other hand, was a must, and his choice to remain at Spurs has left Guardiola with fewer than six days to find someone capable of producing the goals that the 28-year-old had been expected to score this season.
Because they must, City will aim to move on swiftly after Kane’s decision to abandon his efforts to leave Spurs for the Premier League champions. Guardiola needed to find a world-class centre-forward to replace Sergio Aguero, the club’s all-time leading scorer, who left City for Barcelona at the conclusion of his contract earlier this summer. In the opinion of the City Manager, Kane was the only serious contender.
But, despite stating as early as May that he wanted to leave Spurs in order to win a major trophy, a huge chasm in the fee required to sign Kane has proven too great to bridge — Spurs wanted £150 million, City were hesitant to go above £100 million — leaving last season’s Premier League champions scrambling for alternatives in the final week of the transfer window.
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It would be stupid to dismiss City’s chances of completing a major deal between now and next Tuesday’s 11 p.m. BST (6 p.m. ET) transfer deadline owing to their owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan’s enormous riches. However, whomever they sign will not be Kane, which means Guardiola’s plans for the season are in shambles.
Although no deal is ever certain to succeed, Kane’s move from Spurs to City was as near to a foregone conclusion as it gets. In five of the past seven seasons, he has scored 20 or more Premier League goals while wearing the Tottenham jersey. When he fell short of the 20-goal mark in the previous two seasons, he scored 17 and 18 goals, respectively, so Guardiola and City know they can expect the same, if not more, at the Etihad.
Kane’s chances-per-game would have skyrocketed in a blue jersey with a club that generates as many opportunities as City, thanks to crosses and passes from Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, and others. And Guardiola would have a great player who knows his way around the Premier League, as well as one who can play in a three-man front line, as a lone striker, or even as a No. 10. Kane has the flexibility that Guardiola seeks in his players.
Aside from a proclivity for getting injured at least once a season, Kane has few flaws, which is why Guardiola was so eager to sign him as Aguero’s successor. But, by announcing that he would remain at Spurs, Kane has created a huge issue for City and Guardiola. Guardiola must come up with a Plan B — and quickly — since that Aguero is gone and Gabriel Jesus isn’t equal to the task of leading City’s attack as a goal scorer.
Man City would have been better off with Harry Kane. Getty Images/John Patrick Fletcher/Action Plus
So, what are your choices? With Messi signing for PSG and Romelu Lukaku leaving Inter Milan for Chelsea, two apparent options have already been checked off the list.
It’s impossible to believe City wouldn’t have used the money put aside for Kane to sign Messi if they had known he’d remain at Spurs a month ago, but that ship has gone. City may potentially join the battle for Kylian Mbappe, a player Guardiola has always admired, and try to sabotage Real Madrid’s €160 million deal for the PSG striker, but Mbappe and Real have been flirting for so long that it’s hard to see him leaving Paris for anybody else.
Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund is another option, but Chelsea tried and failed to persuade the Norwegian forward, or his club, to negotiate this summer, and all indications are that the 21-year-old will stay at Signal Iduna Park for one more season before triggering a reported €75 million release clause when it becomes active in 2022.
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Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus are both interested in leaving Turin this summer, but apart from his Manchester United ties, it’s questionable if the 36-year-old does enough off the ball for a Guardiola squad. Aside from flexibility, Guardiola expects all of his players to have a strong work ethic. Despite his goal-scoring abilities, Ronaldo is not the sort to drop deep or push opposing defenders.
Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich is a possible candidate. When Guardiola was manager of Bayern Munich, he had great success with the Poland striker, and Lewandowski has hinted at leaving the Bundesliga winners. He still has a lot to give at 33 years old and will add goals and work rate wherever he goes, but City may be hesitant to pay a high price for a guy in his early 30s.
So that leaves Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lautaro Martinez, two players who are both available owing to their teams’ need to generate funds for acquisitions, Arsenal and Inter.
Martinez has impressed with Inter and would have likely signed for Barcelona last year if not for the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aubameyang, 32, is a high-earner but a proven Premier League goal scorer, while Aubameyang, 32, is a high-earner but a proven Premier League goal scorer, while Martinez has impressed with Inter and would have likely signed for Barcelona last year if not for the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Martinez, at 24, is a stronger long-term possibility, but Aubameyang is a ready-made Premier League striker with a track record, even if his work rate is comparable to Ronaldo’s. But that is the issue City now faces as a result of Kane’s choice to remain at Spurs. They need a solution, but none of them come close to Kane’s level of perfection.
City will struggle to retain the Premier League championship or win the Champions League without a striker. The stakes are enormous, and Kane has left them with very little time to respond.
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