I woke up this morning to social media completely abuzz with fresh rumors about Tottenham Hotspur’s vacant managerial position, and a new name that hadn’t been talked about much: Antonio Conte. Multiple outlets in Italy are reporting that Conte, who just led Inter Milan to a Scudetto for the first time since 2010, could be leaving the club within a day or so, and that Spurs have already been in contact about the possibility of appointing him as Tottenham’s next manager.
La Stampa is even reporting that Spurs have offered him a gigantic contract to come to Tottenham with a salary between €15-20m/year, a figure that would be at or slightly above what Spurs were paying Jose Mourinho. The report goes on to suggest that Inter might approach Simone Inzaghi to replace Conte, another Italian manager that was high on English betting odds to become Spurs’ next manager.
Antonio Conte is without hyperbole one of the three best managers in world football right now. This season he led Inter Milan to the Scudetto, breaking Juventus’ nine year stranglehold at the top of the Italian table. In a lot of ways, Conte is exactly what we hoped Jose Mourinho would be — an excellent football coach with Premier League experience who knows how to win things, but without the same degree of toxicity toward his own players. Conte could come in, make the team better, and could very likely shoehorn the club to trophies. He would make the most out of the (good!) players that we have at the club and would also — shockingly — play our best players.
He’s also an absolute lunatic. Conte doesn’t play nice with others, at least with those who are above him in club hierarchies. If Tottenham hires Conte, they will get an excellent tactical coach who will improve the team, but who will demand outrageous financial backing for the players he wants, and who will 100% end up feuding with Daniel Levy. There’s a very good chance that he’ll depart, possibly by resignation, within two years or so, but there’s an equally high probability that in doing so he will not leave a smoking crater behind in his wake.
Tottenham are at a crossroads right now. The squad has needed a complete overhaul and rebuild ever since Mauricio Pochettino left, and the club has basically kicked the can down the road a bit during the Mourinho years. That rebuild still needs to happen. Conte, however, is NOT a project manager, he’s a win-right-now manager, another short-term managerial appointment but one with fewer downsides and baggage that Mourinho had. It would be difficult to look at a hypothetical appointment of Conte and not see Daniel Levy distracted by the latest shiny thing that happened to pass into his peripheral vision.
In addition, considering the state of Tottenham’s current squad, it’s unclear whether Spurs would have the players or situations in place to make Conte successful. The Premier League is a meat grinder, and there are now several clubs that are just flat-out better than Tottenham at the moment. Even with Conte at the helm, it’s a real gamble with the current squad and there’s a decent chance it could, again, blow up in our faces.
On the other hand, despite all the acrimonious player discontent over the past two years, this Tottenham team has a lot of really good attacking talent (assuming they keep ahold of Harry Kane) and needs to sell off some deadwood and bring in 1-2 very good defensive players. Tanguy Ndombele, Gio Lo Celso, Dele, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Son Heung-Min, and Harry Kane are an incredible core around which to build a team. The squad has vastly underachieved its potential, not because all the players are shit (despite what you read on Twitter) but because over the past two years it has not had a good coach. Conte would absolutely be the good coach Spurs need to succeed.
The romantic in me wants a “good vibes” coach to come in, offload a bunch of players, give the fanbase a big hug, and start a new project. In discussing this in the Carty Free writer’s Slack this was my first reaction to the idea of Conte coming in — I’d be willing to accept mediocrity for a while if there was clear progress and a good plan under someone like Graham Potter or Erik Ten Hag.
But what if we didn’t need to go down that route, at least right away? Conte would be another expensive shiny object for Daniel Levy to grab onto, but it could kick-start the rebuild with most of the players we have now and without the need to blow everything up. There’s a tremendous amount of upside here. This was the counter-argument and I found myself convinced by it.
Now that I’ve written 800 words on this idea, it’s important to note that the Italian media can be EXTREMELY unreliable, and there’s just as much chance that this isn’t a thing at all. Don’t take this as gospel, at least not for now. But I’m definitely keeping a close eye on these rumors.
UPDATE: It’s official — Conte is leaving Inter Milan. Buckle up.