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Mokbel: Tottenham to retain Antonio Conte... for now

Spurs are wary of upsetting the fruit cart with top four still on the line, but all bets are off if the poor form continues.

Tottenham Hotspur v AC Milan: Round of 16 Second Leg - UEFA Champions League Photo by Francesco Scaccianoce/Getty Images

A lot of Spurs fans, myself included, expected to wake up to news that Tottenham Hotspur had fired Antonio Conte. Last night’s anemic and scoreless draw with AC Milan that bounced Spurs out of the Champions League was the straw that broke the camel’s back for a not-insignificant percentage of fans who were not already Conte-Out, especially after both Richarlison and Harry Kane publicly issued frustrations with either Conte or the current run of form.

There seems to be a general consensus that no matter what, Conte is not going to be managing Spurs when his initial contract expires in June and possibly even sooner than that. However, according to Sami Mokbel in the Daily Mail (sigh, I know, hear me out), Daniel Levy isn’t quite ready to pull the trigger when there’s still the possibility of a top four finish; the thinking is that throwing that much instability into a team at a critical part of the season has the potential to do more harm than good.

The writing is on the wall for Conte’s long term future at Tottenham; there is apparently “no appetite” to sign a new deal either from the Italian or from the club. Dan Kilpatrick in the Evening Standard goes as far as to say that Conte is “desperate to leave” Tottenham and return to Italy. However, Mokbel also writes that Levy could be convinced to move even earlier if the results don’t start improving dramatically, and possibly as soon as this weekend’s match against Nottingham Forest.

This isn’t too dramatically different than the end of Jose Mourinho’s tenure. Mourinho was sacked just ahead of the League Cup final against Chelsea, but at a time when top four qualification was mathematically possible but highly unlikely. Ironically, Conte still has a chance to guide Spurs to a Champions League qualification spot; they’re still in fourth, three points ahead of Liverpool, though the Reds have a game in hand. There’s every chance in what’s turning out to be a very weird year that Spurs could, somehow, back their way into Europe’s biggest competition when all is said and done.

That probably wouldn’t convince Conte to renew his Spurs One membership card, but it could give him a chance to at least finish what he started this season. But sacking him wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive — he only has three months left on his deal, and the only sticking point would be resolving any performance-based clauses still unfinished.

There’s one other possibility — Mokbel also suggests that Conte might even decide to walk away, if he thinks that his continued presence would negatively impact Spurs’ chances of achieving a top four finish. That feels just about as likely as anything else in this topsy-turvy season.

But at present, all indications are that Conte will lead Spurs out at the Lane this Saturday in a match against Forest that could decide his fate. There’s never a dull day at Tottenham Hotspur, is there?