Tottenham are closing in on the appointment of Antonio Conte, with talks having progressed quickly, and there is a confidence at the club that their long search for a manager is almost over.
Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, sacked José Mourinho on 19 April – the team finished the season under the inexperienced interim Ryan Mason – and he has been under intense pressure from supporters to deliver an exciting replacement.
The team imploded over the second half of this past season and Levy raised the temperature further with his rush to join the ultimately doomed European Super League. The club’s talisman, Harry Kane, has made clear that he wants a transfer as his frustration at being unable to win trophies has boiled over.
Levy knows that a failure to attract a big-name manager could seriously damage him and, even though Conte would not appear to fit the profile that the chairman has publicly said he wants, he would certainly be a glamour hire; a proven winner, not only in his native Italy, where he has just won his latest Serie A title with Internazionale, but in England as well. During Conte’s two seasons at Chelsea, he won one Premier League and one FA Cup.
Conte left Inter last Wednesday because he was unhappy at their plan to sell about €80m of players to plug holes in their balance sheet. He had wanted backing for signings and a greater chance to build on his title win. The 51-year-old expects to be offered something similar by Levy, although it is unclear where the money would come from – with Spurs having sustained massive losses during the pandemic.
Levy said at the end of the season that he wanted his new manager to “embrace our desire to see young players flourish from our academy alongside experienced talent”. It is known that he previously wanted a figure in the mould of Mauricio Pochettino, the manager before Mourinho who worked wonders on a relatively small budget and developed a clutch of young players.
What Levy has made clear internally is that he will not countenance the sale of Kane, who has three years to run on his contract and is of interest to Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Conte is on record as stating his admiration for Kane, describing him in 2017 as his “dream striker” and “one of the best in the world”. He added: “If I had to buy one striker, I would go to Kane. He is a complete striker.”
Spurs also want to recruit the former Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici, as Levy looks to go back to a two-tier management structure, raising questions over what to do with Steve Hitchen, effectively the head of recruitment.
Levy has previously employed Paul Mitchell, Franco Baldini, Damien Comolli, Frank Arnesen and David Pleat in the role of sporting director or something similar. Conte worked with Paratici, who had been at Juventus for 11 years until his recent departure, between 2011-2014 when he won three Serie A titles.