Every sporting marriage faces the inevitability of divorce and for Tottenham and Harry Kane, the time to seek counselling to save their relationship has long since passed.
As Spurs’ captain and talisman Kane hammered home his 183rd goal for the club against Sheffield United on Thursday night, it was a fleeting reminder of what could have been for a club now seemingly stuck in reverse.
Moments later, the final whistle sounded and Tottenham’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League were all but ended, with a 3-1 defeat at Bramall Lane the latest low point in a season that has contained nothing but misery for Kane and his support cast of nearly men.
A little over a year has passed since Tottenham came within touching distance of the biggest prize in club football as they reached the Champions League final, with a below par display allowing Liverpool to sweep to victory in the final in Madrid.
Yet that was back in the days when the club was punching above their weight under the inspirational guidance of manager Mauricio Pochettino, and now they have has sunk back to a familiar role as a bridesmaid to the Premier League’s genuine contenders.
Mid-table obscurity now beckons for a squad of players that have not responded to Jose Mourinho since he replaced Pochettino in November, with the club’s failure to find a cutting edge still enduring under one of the game’s managerial giants.
Now decision time is looming large for Kane, who will toast his 27th birthday later this month without a single winners’ medal in his collection and with his dream of helping to turn Tottenham into a side of champions now clearly forlorn.
The truth is that Spurs are as far away from silverware now as they have been at any point in Kane’s time at the club and while the prospect of overtaking Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer may still appeal to a player who clearly has a passion to play for Spurs, he also needs to ensure his loyalty to a club no longer capable of allowing him to fulfill his ambitions does not blur his judgement on his next big step.
Kane hinted in an interview during lockdown that he would consider his future at Spurs, unless they were challenging for trophies under Mourinho.
Their sluggish performances since football resumed has confirmed that Kane needs to be ruthless, as he looks to put himself in contention to win prizes before it’s too late.
Ahead of Monday night’s clash against Everton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, former Spurs and Toffees striker Gary Lineker has suggested that Kane needs to be realistic about his own position, as he weighs up the kind of legacy he wants to leave when he hangs up his boots.
"Harry was very honest when he said that he would have to think about his future if Tottenham were not challenging for trophies and there is nothing wrong with that,” said BT Sport host Lineker.
"He has been brilliant for Spurs over an extended period of time, but he needs to look after himself at some point and seeing players at Liverpool, Man City, Manchester United, Real Madrid or Barcelona challenging for the big trophies, it has to make him think.
"All of the top clubs would want Harry Kane if he decided to leave Spurs and it would just be a question of who could afford him at this moment.
"In an ideal world, I’m sure Kane would want to win trophies with Tottenham as he had been at the club for a long time and worked so hard to make it happen, but they are a long way off challenging for the Premier League title and he has to consider whether that is going to change.
"When I look back at my career, I would like to have won more medals. I won a couple of cups at Barcelona and the FA Cup at Tottenham, but it could have been more – and a player of Kane’s calibre needs to make sure he doesn’t get to the age of 30 without winning a big trophy."
This story has echoes of Teddy Sheringham’s decision to leave Tottenham for Manchester United.
The striker’s long wait for success in north London was quickly satisfied as he became a key member of United’s fabled Treble-winning team of 1999.
Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric are also on a list of players who left Tottenham to sign for clubs with genuine trophy ambitions and now Kane is being forced to accept he will also fail in his mission at Spurs.
The club’s hierarchy and manager Mourinho may have insisted they will not consider any offers for Kane, but that could change if the striker confirms he wants to leave in a bid to further his ambitions and few would begrudge him that move after doing so much to carry the club to the very edge of success.
The vast transfer value Spurs would place on their 2018 World Cup golden boot winner in this Covid-infected transfer window could hamper any hopes of a move this summer.
However, the world’s richest clubs tend to find a way to finance deals when a player of Kane’s calibre becomes available and there comes a point in the career of every sporting A-lister when he needs to put the his own interests ahead of a failing team.