How Tottenham Can Match Harry Kane's Ambition in 2018
Along with Europe's most deadly hit man, Spurs have one of the most progressive coaches in world football in Mauricio Pochettino and are preparing for a move into a brand-new state-of-the-art stadium later this year.
Yet they found themselves slipping away from the Premier League's pacesetters during the first half of this season and are eager to ensure all momentum from last campaign's impressive title push is not lost.
On the back of the 2016/17 season, Spurs' best top-flight finish since 1963, it became clear the club would not be competing in the transfer market for the globe's biggest names due to their strict wage policy.
However, chairman Daniel Levy's pay stance is going to be tested like never before over the next 12 months, as top-four rivals continue to splash millions more on fees and wages.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and both Manchester clubs now keeping an eye on Kane's situation, and Spurs must take crucial steps in 2018 to match the lofty ambitions of their star No. 10.
They are already looking into moves to ensure they are not left behind.
Physical and Financial Backing
Kane is as loyal as Spurs could hope for him to be, and unlike Gareth Bale—the last superstar to emerge at the club—he does not have a burning desire to move on to other things.
Officials at Tottenham become sensitive whenever his future is discussed, but there is an increasing acknowledgement that if Spurs want Kane to stay forever, they must give him reason to remain.
Kane scored 56 times in 2017, leaving Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski in his shadow. But he must be made to feel he is part of a thriving club if he is to chase honours such as the Ballon d'Or—the ultimate mark of a superstar.
From speaking to contacts around Tottenham, it's clear they are looking to show increasing support for Kane both on and off the pitch. If he is happy and firing, there is more chance of silverware, after all.
In 2018, additions will include a new wide man and a back-up striker.
There is a feeling that a new player with pace, trickery and goal creativity is needed to offer a new dimension to the Tottenham front line. Sources have suggested to me the dream signing would be Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace.
He has been on their transfer radar for some time and has continued to impress with some excellent displays under Roy Hodgson's guidance this season. Palace are not interested in letting him leave now, but at the end of the season there is hope he could prove to be attainable.
A new central forward is becoming a priority as Fernando Llorente has not quite lived up to the role of filling Kane's boots when he is not around. It has been suggested the next forward they sign in the position will be someone younger than Llorente, 32, and more of an all-round forward.
Spurs are also striving to ensure Kane is happy with life away from the pitch too. His current contract includes lucrative bonuses that frequently ensure his pay is boosted beyond the basic £110,000 per week he collects.
The signs now point towards his salary being given another hike at the end of the season.
Immediate Reinforcements Needed
An injection of talent in January can put current first-teamers under pressure, and one man being lined up is Everton's Ross Barkley.
The England international was subject to serious interest from Chelsea on the final day of the summer window but did not go through with the move. Tottenham insiders believe it was due to his underlying urge to play under Pochettino instead.
The deal for Barkley will move forward soon, although it is unlikely that Levy will pay more than £15 million for the midfielder.
Another intriguing area is left-back, where Danny Rose continues to seem frustrated. He would welcome a move to either Manchester United or Manchester City, and such a switch is almost certain to happen at some stage this year.
A plan for a replacement is already being drawn up, and Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham is being looked at as a replacement.
The 17-year-old has established himself in the Championship and is capable of playing anywhere down the left flank. His versatility is a key strength, and there are obvious comparisons to be made in terms of playing style with Bale, a former Spurs hero.
Insiders at Fuham believe the club would most likely accept an offer in advance of £20 million.
Getting Dele Alli Back to His Best
It was no coincidence that a dip in Tottenham's form this term coincided with a confidence crisis for Dele Alli.
Criticism and negativity is not something the 21-year-old midfielder has had to familiarise himself with before, given an accelerated rise to stardom from MK Dons to Tottenham and England.
But close attention to his situation away from the field—where he has been looking for new representation after splitting with agent Rob Segal—as well as his performances on the pitch have led to some concern for Alli.
Sources close to the club told me he did seem to be affected by the failure to positively impact the side as frequently as he did earlier in the year. There were signs of his frustration, too, as his short fuse has been visible in some games.
Yet the Spurs coaching staff have had no problem with his displays or his attitude. There is a real belief in his ability and an obvious desire for him to get back to his best form, which there are now signs of once again. When Alli is at his most effective, Kane often is too.
Spurs will work to ensure the player is completely satisfied with his life in London by beginning new contract talks in February, with a view to him signing a new deal by the time he heads to the World Cup in June.
Ready for a New Era
With Kane and Alli as the club's two poster boys, Spurs will march into their new home next season preparing to reach new heights and with the message they remain as ambitious as ever.
This season at Wembley Stadium is a difficult one to judge, and a new-look home ground will give them higher status, with hope it will help them retain regular Champions League football while pursuing domestic trophies.
I am told we should expect one significant signing in the summer as a show of intent, but beyond that it could be that Pochettino encourages development players to make a path to greatness. We have seen Harry Winks settle this season, and others will follow.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola labelled Tottenham as the "Harry Kane team," and after a slow start to the campaign, everyone attached to the club is eager to ensure any further suggestions of them being a one-man side are not allowed to stick.