Why would Conte join Spurs now?

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November 3, 2021
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    Antonio Conte with the Premier League trophyAntonio Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League title in his first season at the club in 2016-17

    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 have appointed Antonio Conte as their new manager.

    The former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss takes over the north London side following the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo on Monday after just four fractious months in the job.

    It completes 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 is Conte joining Tottenham now?

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    '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 fees 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.

    "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."

    Italian journalist Gabriele Marcotti said: "There are two things that for me don't fully make sense.

    "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."

    Antonio Conte coaching career
    Club Dates Games Win % Trophies
    Inter Milan May 19 – May 21 102 62.75 Serie A
    Chelsea Jul 16 – Jul 18 106 66.04 Premier League, FA Cup
    Italy Aug 14 – Jun 16 24 58.33
    Juventus May 11 – Jul 14 129 67.44 Serie A (3), Coppa Italia (2)
    Siena May 10 – May 11 44 50
    Atalanta Sep 09 – Jan 10 14 21.43
    Bari Dec 07 – Jun 09 67 47.76 Serie B
    Arezzo Mar 07 – Jun 07 15 53.33
    Arezzo Jul 06 – Oct 06 12 25

    'Where else could he go?'

    There is a possibility, according to Marcotti, that the Conte looking to join Spurs now 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 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."

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