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Football Reporting


Tottenham following head over heart with “demon” Antonio Conte and not Mauricio Pochettino – Alex Milne

It seems extraordinary to consider that the appointment of a manager who has won five league titles in the last seven seasons could be seen as an underwhelming one.

Yet for some Tottenham supporters that may prove to be the case if, as expected, Antonio Conte takes the reins in north London rather than everybody’s favourite cuddly Argentinean Mauricio Pochettino.

When the rumours first started suggesting that Spurs’ ever-popular former boss could make a sensational return there was an instant outpouring of nostalgia on social media (if it’s possible to be nostalgic over a man who was last in the dugout only 17 months ago).

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Tottenham appear to be closing in on appointing Antonio Conte as their new manager
Tottenham appear to be closing in on appointing Antonio Conte as their new manager

Videos of Pochettino in floods of tears after that Ajax game quickly did the rounds, with fans giddy over the prospect of stepping out of the dark shadow left by Jose Mourinho and back into the warm glow of their beloved hero.

But in the cold light of day it looks as though Daniel Levy has had second thoughts, and the strong favourite now appears to be Conte, with the potential of a sporting director in the form of Fabio Paratici joining him.

After having the prospect of Pochettino dangled tantalisingly in front of them only for it to be snatched away, some of the Spurs faithful do not seem best pleased with yet another ex-Chelsea manager being lined up, and a number have even compared Conte to Mourinho.

But in reality in the modern era the two are miles apart, and in making a decision with his head rather than his heart Levy may well be about to pull off a masterstroke.

To start with, there are no two ways about it – going on recent success (that’s recent , cough, Mourinho, cough), Conte is up there with the very best coaches in the world.

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The fact he won Serie A in his first season at Juventus and his second with Inter Milan, as well as the Premier League in his first campaign at Stamford Bridge, shows that if you are looking for a quick fix, Conte is your man.

And boy, do Spurs need a quick fix.

It is no exaggeration to say the team are an absolute shambles at the moment, with a horrible maelstrom of players.

Some want to leave, a fair few have outstayed their welcome and far too many are simply are not good enough.

Some Spurs fans have pined for the return of Mauricio Pochettino
Some Spurs fans have pined for the return of Mauricio Pochettino

A massive shake-up is needed – and Conte is much more suitable to oversee it than Pochettino, who has an emotional attachment with many of those that may need to move on.

If, as has been reported, there are some members of the squad who have grown too comfortable at Spurs, they are in for a big shock when they are introduced to Conte’s training methods.

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European football expert Kristof Terreur recently explained what they should expect in an interview with The Football Terrace.

“They must be ready to suffer,” he said. “They will get lots of tactical training sessions, he’s like the PlayStation manager.

“If he pushes the button, he wants you to move where he pushes the button, basically. They will have tactical training sessions, 11 against nobody to make sure they are in the right position.”

Would Antonio Conte be a success at Tottenham? Comment below

This will be in stark contrast to Mourinho, whose methods are largely outdated and focused on dealing with the opposition’s strengths rather than exploiting their own.

The big elephant in the room which Conte must address straight away is the Harry Kane situation.

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Yet in many senses it could actually be a win-win situation.

The benefits of Kane staying go without saying, and you only need to look at what Conte did with Romelu Lukaku at Inter Milan to see that he knows how to get the very best out of a world-class striker.

It would be fascinating to see whether Conte can convince Harry Kane to stay
It would be fascinating to see whether Conte can convince Harry Kane to stay

But if even the arrival of Conte cannot persuade Kane to stay, it means the Italian would be afforded a transfer war-chest of at least £150m, which Levy would surely allow he and Paratici to do what they want with as part of the conditions of him joining.

Some have suggested that Kane would have been more likely stay if he were reunited with Pochettino.

Yet considering he won nothing in the six years he spent under the coach this seems hard to believe, and someone as driven and hungry for success as Kane is would surely be able to separate his friendship from his professional life.

However, if Kane is looking for someone to work with who is as ambitious and competitive as him, he could do a lot worse than Conte.

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Italy legend Andrea Pirlo summed him up when he said: “Conte forces you to give your best at all times, more than you even thought you had.

“He is obsessed with victory, so when he loses, he becomes a demon. You daren’t speak to him. Conte is the best coach I ever worked with.”

Of course, one of the main worries is how quickly things can quickly go sour with Conte, and the clash of egos between him and Levy would make for remarkable viewing (Amazon documentary part two, anyone?).

Yet even if Spurs can get a successful one or two years out of Conte, that could then open the door for the Pochettino return the fans are craving, when the time is much better for both parties and the trauma of his previous divorce is not quite so raw.

On paper, then, Conte and Spurs could (for a while, at least) be a match made in heaven.

Yet this being Spurs, it could also all completely blow up in their face.

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One thing is for sure – it won’t be dull.

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