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mega deal Antonio Conte is one of the best in business – this is why he’ll do well at Spurs

Antonio Conte coming in to replace Nuno, the excuses have been stripped away and if the players fail again

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Antonio Conte poses with the Premier League Trophy after Chelsea's title win in 2017. Other than Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, Conte is the only man this decade to coach a team past 90 points in the Premier League. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Antonio Conte poses with the Premier League Trophy after Chelsea's title win in 2017. Other than Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, Conte is the only man this decade to coach a team past 90 points in the Premier League. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Antonio Conte poses with the Premier League Trophy after Chelsea's title win in 2017. Other than Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, Conte is the only man this decade to coach a team past 90 points in the Premier League. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

For too long, too many Tottenham Hotspur players have had an excuse. Things had become stale under Mauricio Pochettino. Jose Mourinho was past his best. Nuno Espirito Santo was never good enough.

Rightly or wrongly, these were all reasons the club’s underperformers could point to as soon as results dipped or things started to get tough over the past two years or so.

But, now, with Antonio Conte coming in to replace Nuno, the excuses have been stripped away and if the players fail again then, this time, there can be no debate: it will be on them.

There are no doubts over his relevance or his ability to get his teams over the line and there can certainly be no questioning Conte’s pedigree.

He’s made the best even better and won everywhere he’s been.

Just ask Romelu Lukaku, who became a world-class striker under Conte; or Cesc Fabregas, who admitted the Italian took his game to a place he did not believe it could go; or Leonardo Bonucci, who credits Conte with changing the path of his career. This list goes on.

And if any of the Tottenham players are in any doubt about how things will be under Conte, they need only refer to an interview he did with Thierry Henry, who was a team-mate of the former midfielder at Juventus.

“I always talk about education and respect,” said Conte. “I demand this. I give this. But I demand this. And if someone hasn’t a good attitude in the training session or good behaviour in different circumstances, I prefer to kill him.”

Players do not have to like Conte, certainly not at first, to prosper under him. Fabregas was unhappy with being initially rotated and dropped after the 52-year-old arrived at Chelsea and demanded he cover more ground.

But the Spaniard was clever enough to quickly realise that it was Conte’s way or no way at all for him at Stamford Bridge and now claims he became a player he did not know he could be under the former Italy manager.

Fabregas was an integral part of Conte’s Premier League-winning Chelsea team, providing assist after assist for Diego Costa who was famously told he could leave the club by text message.

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Costa had been Chelsea’s top scorer, but, having tried to force a January move to China, the striker was no longer trusted as a man Conte could rely upon.

Would Harry Kane have been so bold to extend his summer holiday had Conte, rather than Nuno, been in charge at the time? Unlikely, one would have thought.

If the environment has been a little too cosy for a few at Tottenham over recent years, then they can expect a nasty shock – no matter their name or profile.

A combustible character, Conte’s relationship with chairman Daniel Levy, who has generally backed his players over his managers, will be fascinating.

But there is another lesson to be learned from Conte’s time at Chelsea that would suggest that he and Levy will not be fighting running battles – not at first at least.

During Conte’s first and most successful year in charge of Chelsea, he had Michael Emenalo, the club’s technical director at the time and a man who holds a degree in international relations and diplomacy, to sound off to.

One of Conte’s regrets from his time in West London was that, at first, he did not fully trust Emenalo, who eventually became an important peacekeeper between the head coach and the board.

It was after Emenalo’s departure that Conte’s relationship with certain figures at Chelsea became more strained and Fabio Paratici’s position at Tottenham could be key.

Paratici and Conte have already worked together at Juventus and their relationship was a vital factor in Tottenham’s latest approach. As the managing director of football, it is Paratici’s responsibility to deal with the club’s head coach on a day-to-day basis.

Conte’s door will no doubt be open to Levy, but it is Paratici who is likely to have daily access to the head coach and attempt to meet his transfer-window demands.

There is a myth pushed by Conte’s critics that he is a chequebook manager who relies on big-money signings. He undoubtedly demands and asks for the best, but he also makes the very best of what he has.

At Chelsea, Marcos Alonso was signed under the radar and became one of the best specialist left wing-backs in the game, while Victor Moses, a player largely ignored at Chelsea, prospered in a new position at right wing-back.

His handling of John Terry’s final year and David Luiz’s return to the club was also masterly. Tottenham players will be given chances and it is up to them to take them, rather than moan about favouritism or a squad hierarchy.

Whereas supporters were never convinced by the appointment of Nuno, and Mourinho split opinion, there is a sense that Conte represents a genuine coup for Tottenham at a time when it appeared hard to see who might want to take on the task.

Other than Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, Conte is the only man this decade to coach a team past the 90-point mark in the Premier League and, unlike the Spaniard and the German, he managed to win the title at his first attempt.

That achievement perhaps remains underestimated and yet Tottenham could yet provide Conte with his biggest challenge to date.

But it is the reputation of the players and not the serial winner that is now on the line.


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