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comment Conte is a serial winner so why has he joined Spurs?

Italian hasn’t joined Tottenham to settle for their usual mediocrity, he’s a winner and Daniel Levy must be subservient

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Only Pep Guardiola has won more major titles since 2011 than Antonio Conte, so Spurs will have to give that little bit extra to the former Chelsea boss to reach his expectations of glory

Only Pep Guardiola has won more major titles since 2011 than Antonio Conte, so Spurs will have to give that little bit extra to the former Chelsea boss to reach his expectations of glory

Only Pep Guardiola has won more major titles since 2011 than Antonio Conte, so Spurs will have to give that little bit extra to the former Chelsea boss to reach his expectations of glory

Since Antonio Conte’s appointment as Tottenham Hotspur manager was announced, all the appraisals of his work have agreed on one fact: Conte is ‘a serial winner’. There is an obvious follow-up gag. Why is he joining Spurs, then?

That is not intended solely as a cheap shot. Spurs fans will agree that since the early 1980s their club has not exactly given their coaches the best chance of collecting major trophies.

Spurs are a club with a reputation for accepting second, third or fourth best, content to reap the financial rewards of Champions League qualification under Mauricio Pochettino when, with just an extra push in the transfer market, they might have won the competition and the Premier League.

Now they have appointed an elite coach in his prime, accustomed to winning titles; a manager who left top-class jobs at Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan amid complaints about lack of squad investment; a manager who by his own admission cannot tolerate being anything but first.

Since 2011, only Pep Guardiola has won more major titles than Conte. You cannot recruit such a manager without sharing the same vision, and providing the right environment for him to realise it.

By hiring Conte, something has to give at Spurs. Either Conte will compromise his expectations of challenging for the biggest prizes – something I cannot imagine – or the Spurs hierarchy will radically shift their sense of ambition and give him the tools which many of his predecessors lacked.

No wonder many are expecting regular firework displays on and off the pitch in North London.

Captivatingly for the rest of us, the first test of the manager/boardroom dynamic is pending. Many will be asking what Spurs will do about Harry Kane this January. The most pertinent question is whose decision will it be?

Last summer, the battle of wills was between Kane and chairman Daniel Levy. Should a fresh, massive bid materialise from Manchester City in January, Levy must defer to his manager and sporting director Fabio Paratici. Conte has two months to establish if Kane is on board with his plans. Whatever he and Paratici decide – either cashing in to reinvest money in the squad, or the manager backing himself to get Kane back to his best – Levy must listen.

If those entrusted to run the football operations are not granted such power – as you can be sure is the case at Manchester City and Liverpool – the 18-month deal the Italian has signed will be exactly what it seems: representative of no more than a short-term relationship.

Before he can be a winner at Tottenham, Conte needs to be a club builder. Reassuringly for Spurs, he has already proven himself as such in Italy.

Rather than demand lavish spending, the start of Conte reigns have often been typified by more prudent means of improving his side. He never paid more than £16 million on a player while Juventus coach, but still won three successive Serie A titles, ending a relatively barren spell for the Turin club. At Inter, he got more from Romelu Lukaku than Manchester United, credited by the Belgian striker for making him a more complete centre-forward.

Such eyes for bargains, and knack of reviving the careers of those who have lost their way, is exactly what Spurs need, but that means he will need much longer than 18 months to get the club back to the level they were under Pochettino. It is delusional to think otherwise.

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Many will argue such a deal is no different to what Chelsea gave Thomas Tuchel when he became their coach, rapidly extending his terms when he won the Champions League after six months. The flaw in that claim – as Conte will realise quicker than anyone – is Spurs are not Chelsea. There is no point expecting the Italian to have the same instant impact as he did at Stamford Bridge, where the foundations were in place and he could use his coaching skills to get a tune from top-class players.

Spurs are miles behind Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, all of whom have settled sides and world-class managers. As we saw last weekend, Manchester United are far superior to Spurs, too.

Conte will not tolerate that for long. He will seek to radically change the mentality at the club, initially working out if he can do so with the players he has inherited or by gradually reconfiguring the squad. Everything we have seen for the last three years says it must be the latter.

Spurs have needed significant investment in the squad since a year before Pochettino left. They lost momentum – and subsequently their place in the top four – by failing to keep building from a position of strength, even if that was chiefly because of the cost of their new stadium.

Jose Mourinho was brought in because there was a belief he could re-galvanise the core of Pochettino’s team. Unlike Conte, Mourinho’s best days were behind him. When that did not work, only Levy could explain what he was thinking by appointing Nuno Espirito Santo, who never looked the right fit.

If the Spurs board really believe a Champions League-qualifying, trophy-winning squad is in place and all that is needed is the right coach to untap its potential rather than assemble new faces, Conte’s job is even harder than anyone could imagine, and problems behind the scenes will become apparent sooner rather than later. He will have noted how spineless Spurs were in their most recent defeats to Arsenal and United.

Conte is a different breed of coach to Nuno. But he will see identical issues in his first few months.

Spurs in 2021 have more in common with Liverpool in October, 2015 when Klopp took over. You could see within a matter of days how the style would evolve and mood and culture around the club improve, but it still needed three seasons for a team to emerge which was capable of challenging for the biggest honours.

Only one Liverpool player who started Klopp’s first game was in the starting XI by the time of the Champions League final three years later.

It will need a similar approach for Spurs to get back into the Champions League given the standard and financial power – of their Premier League rivals. This is the toughest league in the world, with Conte’s return further expanding its list of the greatest coaches. Spurs were wise to act to get him now before Manchester United were tempted in the event of Ole Solskjaer’s reign coming to an end.

Be under no illusions. Should Conte lead Spurs into the Champions League on a regular basis while turning his new club into major trophy winners, he will eclipse his previous managerial achievements.

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