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Transfer Rater: Milinkovic-Savic to Tottenham

Football Whispers
 By John Crace

Tottenham need silverware to keep Harry Kane as they avoid January sales

With potential suitors likely knocking on Tottenham's door, will Spurs be able to keep hold of their star man Harry Kane?

Nearly halfway through the transfer window, the only bit of business that Spurs have done so far is to send Georges-Kevin N'Koudou out on loan to Burnley.

It's a move that frees up a place in the Champions League squad for Erik Lamela as much as anything else. But other than that, nothing. And no one should be too surprised if it stays that way.

Not because the Tottenham ranks couldn't benefit from reinforcements in some areas, but because the chances of manager Mauricio Pochettino being able to get the players he wants are very small. Gone are the days -- hopefully -- when Spurs would buy someone just because he happened to be available.

There's also a feeling this January that Tottenham's gaze is principally directed toward the summer. Earlier this week, chairman Daniel Levy made it clear that Spurs wouldn't be selling any players over the summer that they didn't want to sell. This is a bold claim and might be easier said than done. Already there is a feeling of the vultures circling around the club: Toby Alderweireld is yet to agree a new contract after months of protracted negotiations; Dele Alli is the subject of constant media speculation, especially now he is getting back to something like his best form.

And then there are rumours linking Harry Kane to Real Madrid. This is the move that everyone at the club fears most, mainly because it could be the one most difficult to prevent. Not least because Madrid have been having a poor season with their talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo, badly off form and many believing his best days are behind him.

There can be little doubt that Real will step up the pressure to buy Kane in the coming months. They need a top striker and there are none better than Kane in Europe at the moment. The genius of Kane is that he doesn't appear to lose confidence in himself when he fluffs an easy chance. Time and again this season, he's missed clear-cut early chances only to end the game with a goal or three to his name. His self-belief, technique, hunger and fitness levels are in a class of their own.

Madrid also have the funds to make a serious bid. And if they were to offer a world-record fee of £200 million, would either Spurs or Kane be able to say no? Several years ago, Tottenham and Bale were unable to resist a then eye-watering fee of £90m and history could well repeat itself. And much as no one around White Hart Lane wants to admit it, Kane is bound to leave the club at some point. The chances of him playing the rest of his career at Tottenham are nonexistent. Top footballers have only a small window to cash in on their talent and make themselves financially secure for life, and Kane is now in that zone.

With the vultures circling for Harry Kane and others, Spurs must keep their focus on the pitch in the present, beginning Saturday versus Everton.

The main question is whether Spurs can keep Kane for one or two more seasons or whether the striker jumps ship now. Until now, Kane has been one of the most loyal players in his public pronouncements, never saying anything to add fuel to transfer rumours. But after last week's third-round FA Cup tie victory over AFC Wimbledon, the facade cracked a little as Kane declared he was happy to stay at Spurs so long as they were winning trophies.

As no fan needs reminding, the last time Spurs won anything was 12 years ago, when they beat Chelsea in the League Cup. So the inference is clear. Spurs need to start winning cups this season if they want to be in with a chance of retaining Kane for next season. Playing some of the most attractive football in the league, finishing second and winning the Golden Boot is no longer enough.

With the Premier League already as good as Manchester City's and the Champions League in all probability a bridge too far, that effectively means it's win the FA Cup this year or Kane might walk. Any thoughts Pochettino might have had of resting players in future rounds of the domestic knockout tournament must be shelved.

Somehow, Pochettino has to create a mindset where both the short-term anxieties of the transfer window and the long-term uncertainties of the squad are put to one side and players focus on each game as it comes. Though the Premier League title may have gone, Spurs desperately need a top-four finish to ensure Champions League football next year. Starting the first season in the new stadium in the Europa League is not what anyone had in mind.

The good news is that Spurs go in to this weekend's fixture against Everton in reasonably good shape. Victor Wanyama is coming back to something like full match fitness and Spurs look a much stronger unit with him at the heart of the defensive midfield. Even so, Everton will be a tough nut to crack. The side are much improved since their disastrous start to the season and Spurs will need to be at their best to take the points.

Much will depend on which Spurs turn up. All too frequently, Spurs have blown hot and cold this season, looking world-beaters in one game only to look slow and laboured in the next. At times, even Pochettino has appeared confused by his team's performances and has often seemed slow to ring the changes mid-game when his original plan isn't working.

It's time for both the players and the manager to show their class. There's only one way to ensure this squad sticks together and that's by winning. One game at a time.

John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.


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