Tottenham Hotspur now have a manager — and he’s by all accounts a competent manager and a really nice guy! But it was a very long, embarrassing and convoluted road to get there. It took more than six weeks from the club firing Jose Mourinho and appointing Ryan Mason as caretaker manager to the hiring of Nuno Espirito Santo as its new head coach, but the path between those points was public and extremely messy, leaving several failed approaches and more than a dozen unappointed managers along the way.
As fans, we all lived through it as it happened. It wasn’t fun! But until now information came dribbling out from a number of varied sources and it was often difficult to determine what was happening, how reliable the information was, and what was true or made up.
But now, thanks to Jack Pitt-Brooke at the Athletic (£), we finally have what appears to be the first real timeline of Tottenham’s managerial appointment process. It answers some questions, clarifies a few points, but doesn’t do very much to cast the club’s hiring process in a good light.
The full article in The Athletic is well, well worth a full read and is a very illuminating piece of journalism. It is behind a paywall, but frankly I’m a paid subscriber precisely for articles like this one. I’m not telling you what to do, but I’ve found it well worth the money. While the full article provides an exceptional amount of additional context, here’s the cliff notes version of the main points, leaving out a ton of important context.
Timeline of Tottenham’s manager appointment
- Daniel Levy was distracted by the fallout from the Super League fiasco and asked Steve Hitchen to draw up a list of potential managerial candidates after Mourinho’s sacking.
- After Julian Nagelsmann took the Bayern job, Hansi Flick was Tottenham’s top choice, but he eventually turned Spurs down to take the Germany job at the end of May.
- Erik Ten Hag was also very high on Hitchin’s list and Spurs could have had him in May if they had decided to do so. They didn’t, and by the time he circled around again as an option it was too late.
- Mauricio Pochettino was complaining about PSG to his London friends and wanted to come back to Spurs, but the PSG president told Spurs to pound sand in early June.
- The restructuring of the leadership at the club and the hiring of Paratici only happened after Pochettino fell apart.
- Antonio Conte was Paratici’s idea, but it was never a good fit. It’s still not clear why Conte backed away.
- Paratici turned to Paulo Fonseca after Conte, but Fonseca started to have doubts over tactical and defensive priorities as expressed by Fonseca; Paratici walked away in mid-June.
- Paratici immediately turned to Gattuso, whom he wanted to bring from Juventus. It was all arranged and would’ve happened, but #NoToGattuso and personal emails spooked Levy, who personally pulled the plug.
- Ultimately in the last week of June it came down to Graham Potter, who had a release clause in his contract, and Nuno Espirito Santo. Many at Spurs wanted Potter, but Paratici put the hard sell on Levy for Nuno and eventually convinced him of Nuno’s tactical flexibility at Valencia and Porto.
It’s worth noting again what a calamitous and baffling process this has been, almost from the very beginning. You can look at the above timeline and see a scenario where some circumstances were a bit out of the club’s control, but there were many what feels like just outright bad choices or decisions made from a poor process. It makes Paratici in particular look as though his thought processes and opinions about how the club should be run are at odds with the majority of the rest of the clubs’ leadership, and that doesn’t feel especially great either!
It feels like these decisions were made by a club that is in that transition from being a smaller club to a big club, and doesn’t have the structure in place to make the right decisions at the right time. It’s important not to let the club off the hook for this reason, even if we ultimately like Nuno and like the direction he’s taking Spurs going forward.