Varane, Kane And Sancho = Title Gary Neville Says.
Analysts have crunched the numbers to find the best fit for Harry Kane, should he break free of Daniel Levy and depart the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this summer, and the answer is…Manchester United.
While the bookies and most pundits are looking towards Manchester City as the likely destination for the England international, the data says something different.
Even Kane himself has purred about the possibility of latching onto one of Kevin de Bruyne’s sublime passes, hinting for the first time last week that he might enjoy leading the line at the Premier League champions next season.
However, the analysis undertaken by Ai Abacus for Sportsmail, which looks at potential moves to Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, as well as City and United, is based on an exhaustive interrogation of millions of data points using artificial intelligence.
It takes account of tactical similarities between Spurs and the clubs chasing Kane, as well as how he links up with team mates now and how they compare to potential colleagues.
Of course, with such talented players the margin of difference is always fine. Kane, Spurs all-time leading Premier League goalscorer with 166 in 245 matches, is a great striker on every measure.
So, the outcome of the study may say more about how long it will take the newly crowned Premier League Golden Boot winner to settle, than whether Kane will make any move work. And all that assumes Levy lets him leave and another club find the £120 million thought to be required.
‘With players of this quality they can adapt,’ said Ai Abacus analyst Andy Forrester. ‘So, while hypothetically a certain team might not come out as a great fit for Kane in the analysis, actually he and they could make it work.
‘It is really about comparison. Where do players fit best in terms of how they might link up with potential team mates? Where do the styles of individual players match up really well? And which systems might bring the best out in an individual, so they can hit the ground running?’
And it is not just analysts who are excited by a Man United match up for Kane. Ex-United striker and Manchester City manager, Mark Hughes, has suggested the Spurs’ marksman could power the Red Devils to the title.
And in a Twitter Q&A on Monday, pundit and United stalwart, Gary Neville, said he believed Kane could be one of the key signings to bring the Premier League title to Old Trafford.
AiAbacus uses artificial intelligence to find the perfect match between players and clubs, based on style of play and the ‘chemistry’ a player will have with their new team-mates.
Typically, scouts and coaches are looking for players who ‘fit’ both tactically (which is represented on the vertical axis in the diagram) and with their future team mates (seen on the horizontal axis).
So, in the chart, the best fits are the teams in the top right-hand corner. Only Manchester United, of the four most likely destinations for Kane, make it into that quadrant.
In contract, Chelsea score well for the predicted chemistry between players and City for the tactical fit. The better the overall fit the quicker one would expect a player to perform.
We asked Ai Abacus to look at the numbers for Kane moving to Manchester United, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain or Chelsea this summer.
Odds: 3/1 [MansionBet]
What they said: ‘I think Kane could take United back to a title-winning level,’ Mark Hughes, former Manchester United striker and Manchester City manager, told Sky Sports.
Best combinations for Kane based on Ai Abacus analysis: Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Alex Telles and Paul Pogba.
The smart money may be on Manchester City sealing a deal for Tottenham’s talisman, Harry Kane, but the computer says, United are the best fit for the footloose Londoner.
An analysis based on Kane’s predicted chemistry with existing players and the match between the tactical style of Spurs and United, points to the Theatre of Dreams as the place where he will find his feet fastest.
And instant familiarity with the style of play and team mates could be a comfort for a player who has been at Tottenham, with the exception of a few loan spells, since he was boy. Kane already has a head start in the red half of Manchester, since he knows his potential team mates well from England camps.
In fact, he’s been named in squads 99 times alongside United players, including, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Mason Greenwood, Harry Maguire and Dean Henderson. And those players are reportedly ready to work on Kane during Euro 2020.
Analysis shows shared culture and experience – both United and Spurs have also leant heavily on a 4-2-3-1 formation – mean a player can settle more quickly and contribute from day one.
According to the research conducted by AiAbacus, Kane is particularly suited to combinations with Bruno Fernandes, Rashford and Paul Pogba, based on how he likes to receive the ball, link up and attack the penalty area. The results are built on an exhaustive data mine of the England man’s strengths and playing style and that of potential team mates.
But you don’t need a supercomputer to know that Fernandes exquisite delivery into the penalty area will have a positive result with Kane waiting to get on the end of it.
And from the player’s point of view there is going to be a lot more to get on the end of if he does move to Old Trafford. United have managed 815 shots in all competitions this season, 65 more than Spurs. They have also slung in more than 704 crosses, to Spurs 609, according to FBFRef.
Among Kane’s potential suitors, United are right up there with City in terms of creating shooting opportunities.
There are also significant similarities in playing style between United and Spurs this season., particularly under the management of Jose Mourinho.
Both teams like to build up from the back, but exploit the counter attack, too.
Kane’s ability to drop deep, suck in defenders and gather possession before releasing a runner – invariably Son Heung-min at Spurs – would be a powerful weapon with Rashford, Greenwood or Anthony Martial running in behind.
And the analysts suggest Spurs and Manchester United play at a similar tempo, too, as well as counter-pressing at the same rate.
All of these factors combine to make Manchester United a good match for Kane.
But given his price tag will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prioritise a proven centre forward above a defensive midfield player or long-term target, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho? And in light of Kane’s need for silverware, and desire to play with de Bruyne, will he choose a team in the making over the finished article?
Odds: 11/10 [MansionBet]
What they said: ‘When I watch De Bruyne play he’s a special, special player and some of the balls I see him put in for City are just a striker’s dream if I’m honest,’ said Harry Kane on Gary Neville’s podcast, The Overlap.
Best combinations for Kane based on Ai Abacus analysis: Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ferran Torres, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden.
The favourites to land Kane remain Manchester City and for good reasons.
The data analysis may suggest that the Kane’s chemistry and tactical fit will be better at Manchester United, but as Ai Abacus analyst Andy Forrester says, the calibre of the individuals involved is so high that there is little doubt that they could make it work.
At this super-elite level, the differences are small. While the combinations with Kane and Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden rank lower than the United midfield and forward line, the gaps are not huge.
However, it would aid Kane and City if any deal was done early in the window, so they could spend the maximum amount of time getting to know each other.
The player chemistry model is based on which players Kane links up with now and in what way and then compares that to potential team mates and how they play.
The comparisons are particularly complex at City, where Pep Guardiola is creating new patterns of play, with rotating false nines and turning a traditional ’10’ into a free eight, according to Kevin de Bruyne, not to mention the emergence of the creative-central-midfield-full-back role designed for Joao Cancelo.
If that paragraph tells you anything, it is that these players can adapt, like no others.
And so can Kane. During the last two seasons he has adopted a deeper position for Spurs and England, to facilitate forward running midfield players and quick wingers.
Let’s face it, the lad has got it in his locker to link the play with the best of them and has 16 assists to his name this season, even in Spurs’ hit-and-miss outfit, which is a dramatic increase in previous years.
Imagine the opportunity Kane would present for the transformed Ilkay Gundogan, who has bagged an unlikely 17 goals from central midfield this term, or the twinkle-toes of Bernardo Silva who is always alert to the chance of dancing through a stretched defence and has bagged five goals and nine assists to prove it.
Throw in Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and the passing of de Bruyne and the possibilities are mouth-watering.
Having said all that, City are also comfortable with an out-and-out centre forward and Gabriel Jesus has led the line on 41 occasions in all competitions this season, scoring 14 goals.
Tactically, City differ from Spurs in that they spend more time building in the middle third of the pitch. However, there is a sharp point to their patience and they deliver more crosses than any of their rivals for the Londoner’s signature, throwing in 776 this season.
And who could blame Kane for wanting some City action? They also completed more shot creating actions than any of the competition and banged in 913 shots in all competitions.
Whatever style City adopt next season, you can guarantee they will be making and taking chances.
And with three Premier League titles, four EFL trophies and an FA Cup under Pep, you would expect there to be silverware in return for Kane’s goals.
It is certainly a much more attractive prospect than the Europa Conference League and yet another rebuild.
If he does pick the Etihad, Kane has also played with Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Phil Foden in the England set up, so he knows what he would be letting himself. But with the differing styles it’s a move that would benefit from being done early in the window giving player and club the maximum time to get to know one another.
Paris Saint Germain
Odds: 14/1 [MansionBet]
What they said: ‘I think instead of the Kane and Son link-up, it would be the Kane and Mbappe link-up – that would work. These nippy strikers who like drifting like having a strong reference point in the middle to play off.’ European football expert Lars Sivertsen
Best combinations for Kane based on Ai Abacus analysis: Neymar, Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe, Rafinha and Juan Bernat.
It would take a huge change of heart for Kane to consider Paris Saint-Germain now.
The England international has said a move abroad does not interest him at present, but there are still off-field reasons that might influence his final decision.
They include his close relationship with Maurico Pochettino, which he believes has helped transform him into one of the world’s best forwards.
‘ll be forever thankful to you for helping me achieve my dreams,’ Kane wrote on Twitter after the Argentine’s shock dismissal at Spurs in November 2019.
And the feeling was mutual with Poch reportedly calling Kane in the spring eager to rekindle their relationship.
Add to that that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy does not like to sell to English clubs plus the vast wealth at Paris’ disposal.
However, weighed heavily against that is Kane’s ambition to take Alan Shearers’ Premier League all-time goalscoring record. At 27 and 94 short of the 260 target Kane can do it, but he must remain in England to have a chance.
Both Manchester City and Manchester United would carve out enough chances for him for the prize to be firmly in his hands before he is too far into his thirties – and he hopes to have another seven or eight years at the top.
Undoubtedly, Kane would rattle in the goals in Paris, where Les Parisiens have an expected goals figure of over 100 in all competitions.
And there is little doubt that Kane would link up well with Neymar, Di Maria, Mbappe, Rafinha and Juan Bernat. But the analysis suggests it might take time.
He hasn’t played with any of the squad members before and Paris play a different style to Spurs, with less counter pressing, but more opportunity to counter attack. The French club have also used two strikers 23 per cent of both this and last season with Kane very rarely being used in a two.
In addition, it cannot have escaped Kane’s notice that Paris can be a moody bunch with an attitude problem. PSG fell apart at the Etihad when the pressure came on in their 2-0 defeated to Manchester City in the Champions League semi-final second leg, which would be at odds with Kane’s super-professional approach.