Why serial winner Conte might fancy task at troubled Tottenham
A serial winner with Premier League success on his CV, a single-minded disciplinarian and an astute tactician. It is easy to see why Tottenham Hotspur are chasing Antonio Conte to be their new manager.
It would complete a fascinating turnaround from the summer, when the Italian spurned Spurs’ advances to become their manager, paving the way for Nuno’s eventual appointment.
But with an out-of-form squad, a lack of recent investment and a star player who was eager to leave in the summer, perhaps the more pertinent question is why would Conte want to join Tottenham now?
‘Maybe Spurs have offered to pay him more?’
Conte has developed a reputation as a manager who demands money to spend on improving his squad but at Tottenham he would team up with a chairman, Daniel Levy, who has developed a reputation as a prudent businessman who is reluctant to spend the kind of sums paid by the Premier League’s leading clubs.
“The terms must have changed,” former Norwich and Blackburn striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club, referring to Conte’s aborted summer switch to Tottenham.
“He isn’t going to go to Spurs unless he feels he can win something or come close because he is not that type of manager. He is not coming to the end of his career. He wants to come in and transform the club.
“Spurs aren’t doing Conte a favour, Conte is doing Spurs a favour.”
New York Times football writer Rory Smith suggested a possible reason common ground might have been reached between the two parties: money.
“As much as Conte is a brilliant manager, that comes at a cost,” he said. “That is that he complains constantly that there is not enough resources being given to him in terms of the players.
“Maybe Spurs have gone back to him and said ‘we are in more of a pickle than we thought so maybe we can talk about different targets in the transfer market’?
“But that is unlikely as I don’t think Spurs are flush with cash and aren’t likely to go spending £200m in the summer.
“The only other possibility is that Conte’s hand is strengthened because Spurs have won five and lost five in the league and they have offered to pay him more.”
“There are two things that for me don’t fully make sense,” said Italian journalist Gabriele Marcotti.
“One is that it is reportedly an 18-month deal. That seems strange when you are talking a project and long term, manager security and clout.
“The other obvious thing is that you look at why Conte has left his previous jobs.
“He left Inter [at the end of last season] because they couldn’t invest money and they sold his best players. He left Chelsea because he couldn’t get owner Roman Abramovich to spend more money on players he wanted.
“You’ve heard the famous line about him leaving Juventus when he said ‘they wanted me to eat out in a 100 euros restaurant with 10 euros in my pocket’. They weren’t delivering in the market.
“You think of all the owners in the Premier League and the most likely to be cautious with his money is Levy. It is completely counter-intuitive.”
May 19 – May 21
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Premier League, FA Cup
Aug 14 – Jun 16
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Serie A (3), Coppa Italia (2)
May 10 – May 11
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‘Where else could he go?’
There is a possibility, according to Marcotti, that the Conte looking to join Spurs is a different manager to the one we have seen previously.
“Managers change, people change,” said Marcotti. “I think Conte is evolving into something slightly different to the one at Chelsea. He has had other experiences.
“Maybe he looks at this and thinks ‘you know what, I am really good at working with players who don’t fit’. And he has shown that.
“At Euro 2016, with the worst Italy side in my lifetime in terms of talent, he did really well.
“Maybe he looks at this with Spurs and thinks ‘I will work with this and surprise people and that will give me the clout with Levy where we will then spend money’.”
Smith also believes a lack of other high-profile options in Europe, coupled with a desire to return to England, could be behind the attraction of Spurs to Conte.
“Before Milan played Liverpool in the Champions League this season, Conte was a studio analyst and he shot a little segment in the Cavern Club in Liverpool,” he said. “That is not a normal run-of-the-mill thing to do. That is extra effort.
“The one thing that might have changed the context for him a bit is you look around Europe and where else he could go?
“Paris St-Germain appear to be sticking with Mauricio Pochettino, Manchester United look unwilling to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and by all accounts they are a little wary of Conte because they have bought into the not exactly accurate portrayal of him as a firebrand and divisive figure like Jose Mourinho.
“Barcelona and Real Madrid are out of the question as regards their financial clout so that makes Spurs just about the biggest available club to him at this point.”
‘Conte will need 18 months to turn Tottenham around’
What is not in question is Conte’s pedigree and if the appointment is made – as seems likely – the Italian has been backed to restore Tottenham’s fortunes if he is given time.
“I think a manager is going to need more than 18 months to turn Tottenham around and even though I am a huge admirer of Antonio Conte and how quickly he had success at Chelsea and the other clubs he has been to, it would be very difficult to replicate that success in 18 months,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports.
“He could need another 18 months on top of that to get Tottenham back.
“When I say ‘get Tottenham back’, maybe back to where they were under Pochettino, where they felt they had a chance of winning trophies and pushing people for the title, Champions League year in, year out.”