The inside story: How Daniel Levy came out on top in battle of wills with Harry Kane and Man City

EVEN with less than a week to go before the transfer window closed, Harry Kane and Manchester City still hoped there was a chance that a British record deal, in excess of £125 million (€146m), could be agreed for the striker to finally leave Tottenham Hotspur.

xcept Daniel Levy would not budge. The Tottenham chairman would not respond to City’s previous offer, he would not give any indication he was willing to reopen talks and – crucially – he made it clear to everyone that Kane was not leaving. Not a chance and not at this stage.

In a sense, then, he won the battle of wills. However, it is not as obvious as that.

Part of the problem for City and Kane is that, contrary to what has been widely claimed, there does not appear to have been a fee at which Spurs had indicated they would sell. Was it £150m (€175m)? Was it more? Was it less? No one knew.

It was hard for City to proceed, despite Kane’s determination to leave and Pep Guardiola’s desire to sign him – again it has wrongly been claimed the City manager had reservations about the 28-year-old’s game (that could not be further from the truth) – if Levy would not at least talk.

So, how great is his victory? Again it depends on who you believe.

One view is that Levy has again shown himself to be impervious to pressure, to have an iron resolve to do what he feels is best for Spurs and not be pushed around by a star player who has three years left on his contract and no get-out clause – as Jack Grealish did when City triggered the £100m (€117m) move from Aston Villa to City. Kane’s contract gave Levy the power.

But what if Levy had told Kane – as sources close to him claim – that he could leave this summer if Spurs failed to win a trophy or finish in the top four?

There has been a lot of sneering at the so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and, fair enough, Kane was foolish not to have a more formal understanding if his version is correct. But does reneging on the deal reflect well on Levy, if that is what happened?

Given the scale of Kane’s anger that negotiations could not at least take place, that he felt he was being portrayed as being in the wrong, then Levy certainly has some way to go to appease him.

There were two aims for Kane. He wanted to leave for City and he wanted to do so on good terms. Maybe that was impossible, although he should not be criticised for hoping it might happen. Gareth Bale did it.

Beyond that, Kane is not naive. He always knew it was not a given he would go and he wanted to make it clear that should he have to stay, then he would give his all for Spurs and he was sensitive to the fans’ feelings.

Maybe Levy knew this also. After all, it is difficult for a player of Kane’s status, the England captain, whose reputation and professionalism is important to him, to then play up.

Kane could have handed in a transfer request but he had already made his intentions plain. He could not refuse to play and he hotly denies that he turned up for training a week late, claiming that delay was sanctioned by Levy.

Kane’s mistake was not to nail down the terms under which he could leave and which would have been acceptable for Levy.

The chairman needed to save face after the problems that have beset him in the last couple of years – from the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino, to using the furlough scheme, to the ill-advised involvement in the European Super League, to the unseemly scramble to find a new manager this summer.

Maybe Kane was Levy’s ‘line in the sand’ and it is remarkable that, as this saga played out, the chairman’s popularity with the fans began to improve. Levy is not oblivious to that – and maybe it made him all the more determined not to sell Kane.

Did he mislead Kane? Only he and Kane and whoever was in that meeting last year knows the truth to that. Did City do enough to sign Kane? Again, only the three parties involved really know.

On Wednesday morning the decision was taken for Kane to tweet that he would be staying after he accepted there was no way that City could get Levy to talk to them.

The qualification that he would not be leaving “this summer” felt important. Maybe this saga will play out next year.

There is certainly a sense that Levy will be more amenable to that happening and, if it does, he will feel he has won, even if Kane leaves for a lower price than City offered this time round.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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