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In the wake of Tottenham’s 1-0 win over champions Manchester City on the opening weekend of the new Premier League season, the managers of both clubs remained coy on the future of Harry Kane.
Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo said “we are very lucky to have him” while City manager Pep Guardiola claimed to be content with his existing options up front, despite drawing a blank in their first game.
For bookmakers, the England captain’s omission from the Tottenham squad was taken as a sign that his days are numbered at Spurs with several betting sites reacting by cutting his odds on moving to City in to 4/9.
That implies there’s an 69.2% chance of Kane signing for City before 11pm on August 31, with his odds to stay at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium now a best price of 6/4 with MansionBet.
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Since it looks increasingly likely that City will get their man, Tottenham are surely already preparing for life without Kane and have been heavily linked with two strikers in particular – Serie A duo Lautaro Martínez and Dusan Vlahovic.
Unless avid watchers of Italy’s top flight, Spurs fans may not know a great deal about the pair beyond their highlights reels on YouTube, but former Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson has watched both players closely and is intrigued.
Martínez is the more exciting prospect of the two, according to Robinson, although he points out that the Inter Milan forward cannot be considered a like-for-like replacement for Kane.
“I think he’s a top player,” Robinson told Bookmakers.co.uk.
“Martinez is such an exciting player. Spurs fans might not know much about him but if they can get him this summer it would be a fantastic acquisition.
“I watched him play in the Copa America with Argentina and saw a bit of him at Inter last season – he got 10 assists and the relationship he had with Romelu Lukaku made them the best partnership in Serie A.
“He’s not an out-and-out number nine so it’s going to be difficult if Nuno wants to play the same way that Spurs did last year, with Kane up front on his own, or any other striker up front alone.
“Martinez is not that type of player, he plays off the main striker. If Spurs were to keep Harry Kane and sign Martinez as well then that could be an ideal combination because they would work well together.
“But if Kane does go, Martinez should come in, but he’ll need another one up front because he won’t have an out-and-out number nine.”
Two Forwards Needed To Replace Kane
Martinez scored 17 goals in Serie A last season and did indeed register 10 assists, before scoring three goals in six games as Argentina lifted the Copa America this summer.
Betting apps currently go 1/4 on him being a Tottenham player by the end of the transfer window. Meanwhile, it seems less likely that Fiorentina striker Vlahovic is signed, with bookies currently offering 6/4 on Spurs buying the prolific Serbian this summer.
“I’ve seen little bits of him and I know he scored 21 goals last season, he’s definitely more of a number nine,” said Robinson.
“If you read between the lines, I think Spurs are preparing for life without Harry Kane.
“The sooner the Kane deal is done, the better for everybody, because then Spurs can bring in the players that they want and everybody can move on.
“The two players we’re discussing here – I wouldn’t be too disappointed with that as a replacement for Harry Kane. If they got another player from Manchester City in the deal, maybe [Aymeric] Laporte or Bernardo Silva – there’s reports he wants to leave.
“Spurs still need more strength in depth at centre-half so a good fee plus either Laporte or Silva would be a very good deal for Spurs.”
Following their surprise win over City, bookies reacted by cutting Spurs from 9/2 for a top-four finish to 7/2, while their title odds were trimmed from 50/1 to 40/1.
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Robinson believes Spurs can ill-afford to set their targets low this season and has urged the team to maintain a winning mentality, although he has delivered a warning to Espirito Santo should they fail to keep their momentum.
He said: “We’re talking about a team that were in the Champions League final not so long ago. You can’t drop expectations to think maybe a challenge for top four or maybe a trophy.
“Spurs have to be operating at a level where they set the bar, they can’t let it drop. I honestly think the manager has only got one season to prove himself. I know he’s signed a two-year deal, which we rarely see, so that’s interesting.
“Jose [Mourinho] picked up and ran with what [Mauricio] Pochettino left, with a couple of additions. Now with Kane leaving and new signings needed, Nuno can’t just walk in and pick up what Jose has left because it wasn’t working at the back end of last season.
“He has to sign new players and I think we’ll see some formation changes. It’s such a big season for Tottenham, but they can’t let expectations fall, they have to be challenging at the top of the league and for trophies.”
Tottenham are 12/1 to win the FA Cup, 14/1 to lift the EFL Cup and are expected to get their UEFA Europa Conference League campaign off to a winning start on Thursday as 4/6 favourites away to Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira.