You’d be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Tottenham Hotspur are a bit of a mess right now.
After sacking Jose Mourinho in the spring they went through an extensive list of managerial candidates including the likes of Paulo Fonseca, Julen Lopetegui, Erik ten Hag, Brendan Rodgers, Antonio Conte and their former boss Mauricio Pochettino before appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
It was received by many Spurs fans as being underwhelming news at best, and the current saga which has seen star striker and perennial top-scorer Harry Kane fail to report for training when the club were expecting him has increased the sense of ire around the club.
There may be brighter news on the horizon as the signing of Atalanta’s Argentine defender Cristian Romero could be followed by the completion of a deal for his national team colleague Lautaro Martinez from Inter for around £60m. They have already added Bryan Gil from Sevilla, while Pierluigi Gollini has been brought in from Atalanta as an alternative to captain Hugo Lloris in goal.
But they need the Kane situation dealing with sooner rather than later if they are to go into the new Premier League season with a fresh mind and a clean slate. Nuno might not have been the first-choice pick as manager, but the least he deserves is to know where he stands going into Spurs’ league opener with champions Manchester City on Sunday.
“Harry is with us, he has to quarantine, he’s in the lodge but he’s training,” Nuno told reporters after the friendly win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane on Sunday. “I didn’t speak to him today because today was a match, but we have a training session tomorrow, and hopefully, socially distanced, I will speak with Harry.”
If Kane wants away, Nuno would be entirely within his rights to decide to make his plans for the first few weeks of the season without him. Just as Louis van Gaal kept David de Gea out of the Manchester United side amid a transfer saga involving Real Madrid in 2015, the Spurs boss needs to know what he is getting from whoever he puts out on the field. Kane won’t be available for Sunday as it is, so Nuno might decide to keep that status quo until the transfer window closes and leave the 221-goal striker waiting.
Reports over the weekend suggested that Spurs chair Daniel Levy might now be willing to sell, but Nuno’s job is to get a team ready to take on City in the first instance and to give absolutely everything for the club over the course of the season thereafter.
After a fractured 2020-21 season, which saw them lead the way in the Premier League through November and December only to end up with 12 defeats and a seventh-place finish which earned them only a spot in the newly-formed Europa Conference League, the things they are crying out for more than all else are stability and consistency.
This is a squad boasting Son Heung-min, Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Gil, Romero and more. There is plenty of talent even if Kane moves on. But if they are to improve on last year’s return and show signs of being that same club which reached the 2019 Champions League final once more in the future, they need to get some closure on the whole Kane affair and then Nuno needs to truly get to work.
Only when the distractions are quelled and Spurs get into some sort of rhythm on the pitch can fans really start to analyse whether Nuno was ultimately the right appointment or not.