Two days after Antonio Conte gave an interview in Italian with Sky Sports Italia in which he appeared (but actually didn’t) to cast shade on Tottenham Hotspur’s January transfer window, the Spurs head coach had a chance to correct the record. Speaking in a press conference ahead of Spurs’ match against league-leading Manchester City, Conte told reporters that his comments were misrepresented by the English media and by online Spurs fans, but that the club has asked him not to do any more interviews with the Italian press.
Conte was asked specifically about his comments to Sky Italia that referenced four “important” Tottenham players that left the club on loan or permanently in January. A mistranslation meant that some important words — and context — was left out of the transcript that made it appear as though he was being critical of the fact that four players (implied to be Giovani Lo Celso, Tanguy Ndombele, Dele, and Bryan Gil) had left and only two came in (Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur).
Spurs fans online latched onto the out-of-context mistranslated quotes and there was a storm of criticism directed at Conte, the club, Managing Director of Football Fabio Paratici, and club chairman Daniel Levy, before the full interview transcript was released.
Conte clarified that his comments were specifically relating to that Spurs felt as though the club needed to cut bait on some expensive players that were signed relatively recently, but that it was not necessarily the case that the players should not have left.
“During the interview after the transfer window, after January ended, they asked me about the club, if I was happy, and I said the club did the best that the club could do. We lost four players and I said (raises his voice) important players for Tottenham, because these players that we sent away on loan, Tottenham paid a lot of money. When you spend a lot of money, it means we are talking about important players for the club.
“To pay attention to the future because we need players used to playing in this league and in my last interview, I said numerically, when you lost four players, important players for Tottenham, I repeat because they spent a lot of money, and you sign two players.
“If I had 20 players and now I have 18 players numerically, you can be a bit weaker...numerically. Then I said also with Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur, as a squad we are more complete. I think I was very, very clear.”
Conte went on to criticize what he considered undeserved backlash over his comments both in the English media and among Spurs fans, and noted that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened at Tottenham.
“I don’t understand why someone wants to try to create a problem with me. Not only me but also in the past. I read stories in the past about this club and it creates a problem with the coach and the chairman and the club. The chairman knows very well my thoughts. It’s not important for me to go to the media and speak to the media.
“If I have to speak with him, I go to speak with him. Sorry but I was a bit disturbed by this situation, especially because I had an interview with the Italian media. It means the club now doesn’t want me to speak to Italian media because the translation was not so clear with my thoughts.
“I always said I’m enjoying my time with Tottenham, enjoying working with these players. I always said this. Then we have four months at the end of this season and we have to try to do our best to finish in the best place possible in this league and then we’ll see.
I said in my opinion piece yesterday that Conte’s full quotes seemed consistent with his messaging over the course of his entire tenure at Spurs — he entered into the position clear-eyed about the project and with the understanding that it would take time to resolve. He’s also been practically begging Spurs fans to have patience with the squad as it adjusts and refreshes.
It’s nice to have my opinion validated. Maybe this time people will actually listen. (Maybe Antonio Conte reads Carty Free?)
Later in the press conference, Conte confirmed that while Eric Dier and Steven Bergwijn are now back and available for full team selection for this Saturday’s match at City, Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga are both still out with injuries, and an unnamed third player will also miss the match due to a positive COVID-19 test.
“I like when we can speak about football and not other situations! Dier is available, fit and OK. Skipp’s working, getting better but he’s not ready. Tanganga is the same. We have recovered Steven Bergwijn because three days ago he had a little problem in his calf but now he’s available. So only two players are not available for the game against City.”