Antonio Conte is Daniel Levy's final throw of the dice at Tottenham
Antonio Conte is Daniel Levy’s final throw of the dice at Tottenham: Hiring the Italian hot-head would be a gamble, but his winning mentality can breathe life into this stale team… the former Chelsea boss holds the key to Harry Kane’s future at the club
- Tottenham are in talks with ex-Chelsea boss Antonio Conte to take over as boss
- The Italian is known for his bust-ups with players and fiery touchline antics
- His personality and style of play seems at odds with the club’s philosophy
- But he is an instant winner – something the team are in desperate need of
- His reputation in the game could convince wantaway Harry Kane to stay put
Daniel Levy made a telling confession after dispensing with Jose Mourinho – the ninth Tottenham manager he has worked under since becoming chairman in 2001.
‘I feel we lost sight of some key priorities and what’s truly in our DNA,’ he told fans ahead of the final game of last season against Aston Villa. Spurs as a club are known for their attacking football – but not for their silverware.
The dismal style of football under Mourinho left the team scrambling for a sense of identity as they plummeted down the Premier League standings and out of every major competition barring the League Cup before he was axed ahead of April’s final defeat by Manchester City.
Antonio Conte may not be a traditional Spurs boss but his winning mentality can change the culture at the club
The Spurs chief has promised he is not only looking to hire someone who can build a successful team, but ‘someone whose values reflect those of our club’. In this day and age – as was discovered with Mourinho – finding a coach who can do both of those things can be a tricky task. News that Antonio Conte could soon be taking over proves that.
But Levy knows he is running out of time to find the right manager for this club before it starts to go stale. With a £1billion stadium to finance, one of the best strikers in world football seeking the exit door and an expensive squad losing its value, Spurs are desperately in need of someone who can actually coach this team and help them find their groove.
Conte might not play the expansive football that fans crave, but he is someone who delivers quick turnarounds and transforms struggling sides into winners.
Daniel Levy would be taking a risk by appointing the Italian – but there are few managers out there with Conte’s track record in the game
Conte has won the league title in five of his last seven seasons in club management
He took over a Chelsea team that had just finished 10th in 2015-16 and won the Premier League title the following year. When he arrived at Inter Milan in 2019, they had not finished higher than 4th since 2011. They came second in his debut year and won the league the season after.
The promise of Conte is the promise of a ‘win right now’ manager – the sort of manager Spurs thought they were getting with Mourinho. That fear of deja-vu will linger should the Italian get the keys to the kingdom. One of the greatest managers in the history of the game couldn’t bring success to Spurs, how will this end any different?
Conte represents a risk for Levy, then. But is there any other manager out there who has the tactical prowess to deliver trophies in their first season as well as the reputation that could convince Harry Kane to stay put?
That will be the Tottenham supremo’s key thinking as he weighs up his next boss – a man who has won the domestic title in five of his last seven seasons at club level.
Tottenham thought they were getting instant success with Jose Mourinho – but his style and personality didn’t gel with the team
It’s no secret that Levy wanted Mauricio Pochettino back – a move for the romantics that would have been a crowd pleaser, bringing a semblance of happiness and stability back to the club. But it would have been a decision from the heart, rather from the head.
Spurs cannot be ruled by nostalgia or sentiment, they cannot afford to go backwards. Conte offers a step forwards, perhaps only for a couple of seasons, but standing still is no longer an option – not if they want to keep up with the elite.
Levy is already under pressure from fans furious with the club’s involvement in the European Super League. Get this next appointment wrong and the chorus of calls to leave the club will only grow stronger.
The club could have easily hired someone like Brighton’s Graham Potter – a promising young manager with an attractive style – but that is a project. Kane’s comments – expressing his hunger for ‘team trophies’ – have made it clear that projects are no longer possible in north London.
Spurs have stagnated and risk going stale if they don’t hire a manager who can win trophies
Chelsea abandoned a project of their own by sacking Frank Lampard and bringing in Thomas Tuchel and got slated for it – but no one is complaining now after becoming champions of Europe.
Conte, known for playing three at the back and his sweeping counter attacks, can not only get Tottenham organised and playing to their full potential, he can be the key in talks with Kane over his future.
The England captain wants trophies – Conte can deliver them. The Italian has previously admitted he sees Kane as his ‘dream forward’, and has reportedly demanded that the club’s talisman cannot be sold if he is to take charge.
‘If I had to buy one striker I would go to Kane,’ he said in 2017. ‘He is a complete striker. He is strong physically, with the ball, without the ball, he fights and he’s strong in the air and acrobatic on the right and the left.
‘He’s a complete player. He’s one of the top strikers in the world. If you go to buy Kane now it would be at least £100m.’
Tottenham must show they are taking leaps forward to keep Harry Kane – and Conte could be the man to convince him to stay
He once called the England captain his dream striker who is ‘the complete player’
With three years left on his contract, his demand that Kane stays is not unfeasible, and the striker will see Conte as someone who can make things happen. Despite confessing his love for Pochettino, his return was not enough to stop him pursuing a move elsewhere.
If Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp was to arrive at the club, he would have different thoughts – and you could argue Conte is in that bracket.
Of course, it musn’t be forgotten that the fiery Italian – infamous for his hot-headed antics on the touchline – is very much a ‘love him or loathe him’ character. Get on his good side like Romelu Lukaku, and you can reach the top of your game. Get on his bad side like Diego Costa and the dressing room can turn toxic.
Conte is tough on his players – but it usually brings the right response. You only had to see his reaction towards Lautaro Martinez after the Argentine sulked towards the bench after being subbed for Inter – kicking a water bottle and throwing his shirt.
Conte isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and has a history of being a hot-head both on the touchline and in the dressing room
He infamously fell out with Diego Costa at Chelsea and will not shy away from a feud
But get on his good side – like Romelu Lukaku – and players can take their game to the next level
He scolded the forward and told him: ‘Have respect! Who are you angry with? Never react like this again.’ The feud was resolved the next day – with the pair putting on gloves in training to contest a joke boxing match.
So how will the Spurs players respond to him? Mourinho’s tough loving didn’t go down well – but neither did his tactics. Conte’s system usually has an instant impact if the players buy into his methods then the rest of the pieces should fall into place.
Former Southampton star Graziano Pelle thrived under Conte for the Italy national team and raved about how the coach had set them up.
‘Conte prepares the game well,’ he said after the Italian guided them to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Spain. ‘It’s difficult to explain just how good he is. He works very simply, he doesn’t complicate things.
Conte’s spells don’t usually last long, but Spurs don’t need a project – they need progress
‘He’s been a footballer so knows how to explain parts of the game and he is realistic.’
We know Conte’s reigns don’t normally end well. He endured a fractious relationship with the Juventus board before his resignation, fell out with Chelsea chiefs – who deemed him too hot to handle after his falling out with Costa – and quit at Inter after becoming frustrated with the club’s lack of resources.
But if he can turn Tottenham into an overnight success, a bitter end will be an easy pill to swallow. This is a born winner – who was damning of the club’s mentality while in charge at Chelsea, insisting it was ‘not a tragedy’ if they didn’t win trophies.
This is a man who is not afraid to speak his mind – and with Tottenham in need of a reality check, this unlikely match could end up being a perfect fit.
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