Kane or Sancho? Man United face dilemma over top transfer targets

Posted Thursday, April 16, 2020 by ESPN

Kane or Sancho? Man United face dilemma over top transfer targets

Harry Kane has given Manchester United a dilemma. Here is a player who has been on the Old Trafford wish list since 2015 and, all of a sudden, may be available. He may also be affordable, if football recognises the financial reality check that is coming its way and Tottenham Hotspur's fantastical £200 million valuation of the England captain is halved due to a variety of factors (more of those later). In which case, Kane will not be eclipsing Paris Saint-Germain's £198m outlay for Neymar as the world-record transfer anytime soon.

But just as Kane begins to come into range for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to consider whether to go all-out for one of the most consistent goal scorers of the Premier League era -- and do what United always did under Sir Alex Ferguson by targeting the best players in England -- or to stick with a plan that is finally beginning to show signs of progress and focus instead on signing Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.

In an ideal world, United would attempt to sign both players, but even in normal times, it would stretch the finances of a club of their stature to spend a minimum of £200m on two forwards during the same transfer window.

The world is still attempting to navigate a route out of the coronavirus crisis, and football, like every other industry, is bracing itself for the massive financial impact that will follow as a consequence, so no club is going to be throwing money around when some kind of normality returns. Which is why United will have to focus on one or the other -- Kane or Sancho -- once transfer business becomes a priority at some, as yet unknown, stage down the road.

Kane has been on United's radar ever since the summer of 2015, following his breakthrough season at Tottenham, when he scored 21 goals in all competitions under Mauricio Pochettino.

United have always regarded the best British players as a key element of their recruitment. Some, like Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, they signed, and others, such as Frank Lampard or Gareth Bale, they missed out on.

Kane or Sancho? Man United face dilemma over top transfer targets
Manchester United have long-standing interest in both Harry Kane and his England teammate Jadon Sancho. Getty

Since 2015, Kane has always seemed out of reach because of United's post-Ferguson decline and Tottenham's emergence as Champions League regulars. But, having always insisted he could realise his ambitions with Spurs, Kane opened the door to a move away during an Instagram Q&A with former Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp last month.

"I've always said if I don't feel we're progressing as a team or going in the right direction, then I'm not someone to just stay there for the sake of it," Kane said. "So it's not a definite I'm going to stay there forever, but it's not a no, either."

Kane's comments have been followed by well-sourced reports that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy would be prepared to sell the player for £200m.

At the same time, United have been attempting to consolidate their efforts to sign Sancho from Dortmund. Like Kane, Sancho is a long-term United target, and Solskjaer believes the 20-year-old can be a crucial addition to his youthful forward line of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

But could Solskjaer really turn down the chance to sign Kane and stick with Sancho? In many ways, Kane could be another Robin van Persie for United in terms of his experience and proven track record, but the injuries that he has suffered in recent years would also make him a gamble.

Sancho would also be a risk, but at 20, United could expect to get 10 years of service from him. Kane, meanwhile, has barely been rested when fit ever since he broke into the Spurs first team, and United would be wise to consider his injury record when weighing up the short- and long-term benefits of signing him. Ultimately, a move for Kane depends on his price tag, and he can forget about a move if Spurs and Levy stick to their £200m valuation.

Even before COVID-19 forced football to shut down, the transfer market was beginning to cool, but now, everything has changed. Those huge fees paid for Neymar and Philippe Coutinho (£142m from Liverpool to Barcelona) are a thing of the past, and quite frankly, Levy is dreaming if he believes that Kane is worth £200m in the current climate.

Kane will be 27 in July and has missed 52 of Tottenham's 209 games in all competitions since the start of the 2016-17 season because of injury. No club is going to pay £200m for a player who has missed a quarter of all games over a period of three and a half years. So factor in Kane's age, his injury record, the already cooling market, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and Tottenham's net debt, which stood at £534m in their most recent accounts, and you have a reality check that means his market value is realistically half of what Levy wants.

But if Kane can be bought for £100m, then United have to make a big decision. Spend on the here and now with Kane or invest in the future with Sancho? It will be a tough call.

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