Antonio Conte has, again and this time decisively, reaffirmed that he wants to remain head coach at Tottenham Hotspur next season. That’s the good news! In comments to the press released late Friday, Conte said that he’s enjoying his time at the club, he understood the scope of the project when he took the job, and that he wants to lead Spurs to the pinnacle of the league.
But only if he’s backed this summer by Tottenham’s brass.
“For sure at the moment there is only one truth - I am committed to this club for another year. The club wanted this type of situation and I accepted it because it was good to get to know each other.
“After four months I think the club have understood the way I want to work and I understand the club. We have three more months till the end of the season to continue to improve our knowledge of each other and then to find the best solution for both.
“I can tell you that I am enjoying working for this club and I would like to fight for something important for this club. For sure it is true that I would like this - to fight for the future, to fight to be competitive, to fight to win and not only to finish fourth in the league, because I repeat, that is not my ambition.
“My ambition is to be competitive and to fight to win. I want this and I know my heart, my soul, my mind wants these things. I hope myself and the club match each other in this situation.”
This isn’t new information. It’s pretty much what we all expected from Conte when he was first linked to the Spurs job, because we’ve seen what happens when his ambition doesn’t match that of the club he’s working for. Conte expects his employers to also do their part to make sure he’s provided with the tools and resources to be successful. He left Inter Milan just after leading them to their first scudetto in 11 years because the club was ready to sell its top talent for financial reasons. He’s left other jobs for similar, sometimes smaller reasons. Conte has an unshakeable belief in his ability, and to be quite honest, he’s rightfully earned it.
So while we’ve gotten similar sentiments from Conte in past press conferences and in other comments to the press, this one feels different because it feels so equivocal: I’m here and want to stay here, but here’s what you have to do for me.
“I think it is very important to develop a good vision, because if you have a good vision in football and you have a lot of hope, you can be successful. In January we showed that we have just started to try to improve the situation. For sure, to be competitive and become stronger and win the league and to fight to stay in the top four, we need a big, big improvement.
“We have started to do this with these players because we are working really well and in my opinion are improving a lot, but for sure, you need in the future to have other important steps and to have ambition.
“And it needs to be ambition with facts and not only with words to become stronger.”
So there it is. Cards on the table, everything in the open. There’s some wiggle room here — Conte isn’t providing a list of players he MUST have in order to be successful, but his comments here really put a fine point on how critical this summer is for Conte’s immediate tenure, and Tottenham’s short to medium-range future.
So will Chairman Daniel Levy do it? There’s a lot of very good reasons to think so. Most crucially, Levy clearly knows what appointing Conte means, and what it takes to make him happy. Despite a period of COVID-related financial instability, the club is still on very solid financial footing. The stadium is printing money. Spurs are starting to catch up with the oligarch-backed top of the Premier League table. It sure seems like next summer will be a good time to show some intent.
But of course, the proof’s in the pudding.
Conte went on to say that he’s not sure where Spurs will finish up this season, but he likes what he’s seeing from the club and the way they’re working and taking direction. It’s not much different than what he’s said in the past, but it does convey perhaps a note of acceptance that success at Tottenham may not come immediately, nor necessarily in the way he imagined.
“I want to put to myself the pressure and also the whole environment and also the players because I think the players deserve this type of pressure because it has to be a good pressure. They are working hard and improving and it is important to know for the players that we can start to be competitive and fight and then we will see what happens at the end of the season.
“Honestly in this moment I don’t know the way that we can finish the season. What I can tell you and I am sure about this, we are doing a really important job, really important work every day and we are creating a really good team with a good idea of football and I can tell you this.
“I don’t know if it will be enough to reach the top four in this season but we want to try to fight and for this season I improved our level of ambition as now I am asking to my players to fight for this target but before I asked to my players, I asked myself to do this because I think we need to have this type of ambition.”
These quotes are good, and perhaps are as comforting as any words we’re going to get out of Antonio Conte here in the short term. Once again he has said that he wants to stay at Spurs, that he thinks he can win things here, and do something that hasn’t been done since Bill Nicholson in 1961. And once again the club knows that they have to do their part to help him achieve it.
“It’s important for us to show on Saturday that our level is going to improve because don’t forget that one and a half month [ago], we lost three times against Chelsea and in every game, we didn’t show to stay at that level.
“I think that since one month ago, we improved a lot, despite ups and downs. In the last period, I think that we improved a lot in many aspects.
“Now we are ready. We are ready to fight, we are ready to play our cards and to see what happens. It would be outstanding for us to win a Champions League [place], if we reach the top four at the end of the season because don’t forget that this season for Tottenham was very difficult for many, many aspects.”