Antonio Conte employed that age-old tactic at Hotspur Way on Friday of lashing out at French reports linking him to PSG while not really convincing anyone that his future lies at Tottenham.
Managers love to be wooed. They want to feel wanted and if there’s flattery to be had then they’re not going to slap it away. Conte spends a lot of time telling everyone just how good he is and he likes to know he’s in demand, particularly after last summer when reports claimed that Real Madrid, Manchester United and at first Spurs all baulked at his demands.
In one sense he did want to deny the PSG reports, because they claimed he had offered himself to the Parisian club, and the Italian hit out at them in a rather Donald Trump ‘fake news’ style, all the while making it clear to interested parties that he might be available in the summer. You half-expected the refrain of Carly Rae Jepsen’s number one hit ‘Call Me Maybe’ to roll around the press conference room.
READ MORE:Antonio Conte explains exactly what must happen in Daniel Levy meeting for him to stay at Spurs
Conte is not alone in starring in The Tottenham Manager Linked Elsewhere Show. Harry Redknapp once took a main role, particularly when it came to the England job and Mauricio Pochettino in particular appeared to relish having his name out there, particularly when it strengthened his hand with chairman Daniel Levy.
Trying to get the Argentine to shut down links to Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, the Argentina job and at one point PSG was like asking a dog to spit a treat out of its mouth.
During one press conference, Pochettino was asked so many times about links to United because he wasn’t shutting them down, that the then head of communications Simon Felstein stopped proceedings, asked for the cameras to be turned off and warned the reporter that if he continued down that line of questioning the press conference would be ended.
Fans get infuriated when their managers don’t simply declare their undying love for their club like they do. The reality is that in a world as fickle as football there’s little point in slamming one door shut when you might need to walk through it a few months later.
Managers are one of the most dispensable characters in the show that is football. Conte and Pochettino both know well enough that the curtain can quickly come down on their performance. The Italian was sacked by Chelsea after winning the Premier League and FA Cup, the Argentine by Spurs after four top four finishes – three in the top three – and reaching the Champions League final – and the same looks to be happening at PSG for him after winning the Ligue 1 title.
On one of the rare occasions that Pochettino did shut down a managerial link, he gave it real gusto to make it clear that he could not possibly consider Barcelona.
“[Facing Barca] motivates me, being an Espanyol fan and living for so many years in Barcelona,” he said in 2018. “It is more than understood [that I will never take over]. My path and that of Barcelona are different, opposite directions. Coaching there would be impossible.”
That was walked back two years later after it became clear that Pochettino had messed up his chances of actually being appointed by Barcelona after Spurs had relieved him of his duties.
“I think the statements made the [Barca] fans reluctant to accept me, but at no time did I receive an offer to manage Barca,’ he said. “I was wrong in the way I conveyed that it would be impossible in the future to manage Barcelona. I was a bit exaggerated by not leaving an iota of doubt.”
There is a certain irony that the person Conte was reportedly trying to replace was Pochettino at PSG.
When Conte was asked whether he expected to be at Tottenham next season and what he made of those French reports, he said: “Obviously I think that it’s good that other clubs appreciate my work. This is one thing, but the truth is that I don’t like when people try to invent news – only to speak, only to create problems. This is not right, not fair for me, for the clubs involved and for my players.
“Also because we’re really focused on these five games to get a fantastic result for us. I repeat, this type of situation makes me smile, but I think that also the people that want to tell something about this have to show respect for all the people involved in this situation, and not invent fake news and tell a lot of lies.”
football.london asked Conte if he had a message for the Spurs fans who had been worried by the reports of his impending exit. It was the journalistic equivalent of teeing him up in front of an open goal, yet instead the Italian made out he was about to shoot only to pick up the ball on the line at the last moment.
“In this moment our fans, me, the players, the club, the fans we need to be focused, we need to be concentrated on an important target for us. We have a big opportunity to try to get a place in the Champions League,” he said.
“It’s a big opportunity for us because no one can imagine to stay and fight for this target in this league now in this moment. In the past it was different, but now you know very well what I said in the past that it would be a miracle to get this achievement.
“Now it would be very important to be focused and not listen to fake news and the people that for sure want to create problems for the environment. We have to play these five games and then you know, because I answer a lot of times, that at the end of the season in a private way I will speak with my club and I will see the best solution.”
The best solution. With three simple words Conte ensured that the Tottenham fans and Daniel Levy cannot sit comfortably once the season has come to a close.
There was a better way to deal with it. The 52-year-old could simply have said something along the lines of: “I want to be Tottenham manager next season, I want to take them to the top level where they belong and I’m excited to see how we as a club will make that happen.”
In one fell swoop he would have appeased the fans, inspired his players for the run-in and also ensured that the entire fanbase is only looking at one person if the Italian does head off following his post-season meeting – a certain Tottenham chairman. It’s something Conte has half-said in the past but he could have really rammed it home in this moment.
There’s also something that leaves a slightly unpleasant taste in the mouth about a manager strongly suggesting that he could leave this summer when he still has a year left on his contract. There is no official break clause in Conte’s 18-month contract, although you just know those infamous words ‘a gentleman’s agreement’ are going to emerge at some point.
If Tottenham could finish in the top four and reach the Champions League everything will seem better and it will make creating a Conte Spurs squad that bit easier.
There could also be a lack of suitors for Conte this summer. Those same reports in France also claim he isn’t the main choice for PSG and the Manchester United and Real Madrid posts are currently filled. There has been talk that Conte would like to take on the challenge of Roma – if so he clearly has a thing about following Jose Mourinho at clubs – but there is no guarantee that the Portuguese and Roma will part ways.
Conte is often making it clear that he believes he is better than Spurs and his CV is certainly there for all to see, but this is a club with a rich history, the club of Bill Nicholson and they did used to lift trophies and led the way in the football world with the titles they won back then.
Conte wants an easier route to success, but perhaps his greatest achievement of all would be to restore Tottenham Hotspur to where they once were. Now that would get everyone looking his way.
Source by Football London