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Conte and Spurs are a strange match – but hiring ex-Chelsea boss might just work


Were Antonio Conte to take over at Tottenham, it would certainly raise a few eyebrows.

While there’s little novelty in Spurs appointing a former Chelsea manager given their history with Glenn Hoddle, Andre Villas-Boas and, most recently, Jose Mourinho, Conte seems like he would make a strange fit.

There are obvious reasons for wanting to appoint him, not least the fact that he won the Premier League and FA Cup in a two-season stint with the Blues. He is also a four-time Serie A winner, finally breaking Juventus’ iron grip on the Scudetto last term with Inter Milan.

Spurs certainly seem intent on bringing him back to England, with discussions well underway. Whether or not they can convince him to move to north London is still to be seen.

Whether or not he can be a success at Spurs is another question entirely.



Antonio Conte is reportedly in 'advanced talks' with Spurs
Antonio Conte is reportedly in ‘advanced talks’ with Spurs

The fact is that, if Conte joins Spurs, he will be their most combustible appointment since, err, well, Mourinho.

He has previous when it comes to fixing broken Mourinho teams, at least, having taken over at Chelsea after a season in which they had utterly imploded and finished 10th – and even then, only thanks to interim boss Guus Hiddink – before transforming them into title winners.

Tactically, Conte makes sense as a successor to Mourinho. Where Mourinho flirted with a back three last season with mixed results, he ultimately struggled to make it work and reverted to a more conservative back four while asking Spurs to defend increasingly deep.

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Conte uses a trademark three-man defence, which switches to a back five in sticky situations. Like Mourinho, he demands that his sides are defensively solid and, like Mourinho, he looks to hit opponents with sudden counter-attacks but, unlike Mourinho, his tactical set-up has proved to be hugely dynamic over the last few seasons.

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With Serge Aurier one of the few players to excel for Spurs at wing-back, however, Conte may wonder whether they have the personnel to fit his preferred system. Mourinho evidently didn’t think so, hence his reversion to 4-2-3-1.

Whether at wing-back or elsewhere, Conte would inevitably want to shape the squad in his own image. That would mean a big summer in the transfer market, which is exactly where Conte and Spurs seem like an unlikely match.

Conte has a long history of disagreements over transfer policy, going all the way back to his time at Juventus. When he quit the club in 2014, prevailing wisdom suggested that he was frustrated at their failure to match their European rivals’ financial outlay.

Having won his third consecutive title at the club, he was asked whether Juve could make an impact in Europe the following campaign and famously replied: “You cannot go to eat at a €100 restaurant with just €10 in your pocket, can you?” He went on to resign at the start of pre-season, sending shockwaves through Italian football.

There was further unrest over transfers at Chelsea, while he has just left Inter in light of budget cuts which would have left him with less money to play with this summer. All in all, the record shows that he is a manager who likes to see his ambition matched with hefty expenditure.

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If they really intend to hire Conte, Spurs will have to decide whether they can afford to satisfy his demands in the transfer market. Even with the club-record signing of Tanguy Ndombele for £55m back in 2019, they remain the most financially cautious of the so-called ‘Big Six’.

Conte is not an appointment for the long term, with the three seasons he spent at Juve still the longest stint of his managerial career. Given his success in recent years, it’s not hard to see how his coaching could have an instant impact at Spurs and potentially earn them some precious silverware.

Conte is not a manager who responds well to financial restraint, however, and Spurs are unlikely to become the Premier League’s biggest spenders overnight. If Daniel Levy and the Spurs hierarchy have their hearts set on Conte, they will have to get used to taking big risks in pursuit of even bigger rewards.

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