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Conte: Kulusevski, Bentancur available for Brighton, but won’t start

Tottenham’s newest signings may feature, but from the bench.

Tottenham Hotspur Training Session Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Antonio Conte gave his first Tottenham Hotspur press conference since the close of the January transfer window on Friday, and gave some optimistic news for fans hoping to see the club’s newest signings during Saturday’s FA Cup match against Brighton. Conte indicated that both Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur have received their work permits and are available for selection tomorrow, but neither is expected to make the starting lineup.

“The two players are fit and for this reason tomorrow they are available, for sure to start the game is not right because they need to work with the team for a period. They can come in to help us a lot.

“About Kulusevski, he is a good player, he is very young, he is a great talent and he can play like a number 10 with the strikers but at the same time he has the potential to play wing-back on the right, he has good quality. He likes to attack, he is good on a one vs one, to create chances for team-mates. A good signing for us.

“Rodrigo and Dejan and they are the right prospect of following Tottenham philosophy. Young talented players to improve and they are important players for the future but you need time to do this.”

Makes sense! Honestly, this is more than I expected — there’s no way that either player is “Antonio Conte fit” nor will they have enough time to learn The Patterns™ — but it seems very likely that if Spurs are in a good position in the second half against Brighton that we might see a club debut or two. Conte will need more time before he trusts either of them to start.

Conte dropped an interesting nugget elsewhere in the press conference where he suggested that Kulusevski might be able to play in a position that... well, none of us really considered.

“I think [the squad] is more complete. Now it’s more complete and we tried to fill the right roles with a central midfielder, and Kulusevski. He can play as a number 10 or as a wing-back. We need to not make big mistakes in the transfer market.”

Incredible. What if we were all wrong and Kulusevski was the Victor Moses-style RWB we wanted all along? What if the real right wing back was the Swedish international attacking midfielders we met along the way?

Conte also had a bit to say about the players who departed on loan, straight out suggesting that the club screwed up when purchasing some of them. And considering who went out, we don’t think he was talking about Dele.

“For the players who went out on loan it was right. For sure it was strange to send out on loan four players and one transfer in January, it showed something went wrong in the past.

“Maybe there were some mistakes in the past. You have to buy players to reinforce your team but if you send away players that you bought in the last two or three years it means you did something wrong in the past.”

“Conte did have good things to say about our departed nutmegging king, though, and about Bryan Gil, whom he suggested wasn’t physical enough to cope with the rigors of the Premier League right now.

“With Dele I think it was a good decision for the club and the player. I think Dele needed to have another experience and another challenge in his life. I want to thank him for the time we worked together but I think it was good for the club and the player to take this decision. Good luck to Dele and the other players who went on loan.

“I like to tell the truth. [With Gil] are talking about a really good player, he has good quality. He understands football quickly and in this moment for sure this league is very tough. If you compare this league with another league you play another sport here. When you sign a player you have to consider many aspects because this league is very difficult. You can be good and creative but you at the same time you need to be strong and physical.

“I have my vision and I am here to help the club. In the past I have built good structure and teams that have lasted time, even without me. We need to build structure. We need to make sure we don’t repeat mistakes in the future, we have to reduce the mistakes.”

Spurs host Brighton in the FA Cup on Saturday. Kickoff time is 3 p.m. EST, 8 p.m. UK.