The Tottenham Hokey Cokey

Let’s be clear, it is perfectly reasonable and perfectly sensible for two parties to end a negotiation because a compromise cannot be reached. If one side or both sides have particular needs, requirements, values on which they will not bend, then walking away is clearly the right decision. But, allowing that to play out in public, particularly on the day of the deadline for season ticket renewals, is pretty shameful. As is allowing negotiations get as far as they appear to have got; what a waste of time and effort.

We know that Spurs can keep a lid on all of this stuff — we know that because, until the Mauricio Pochettino and then Antonio Conte rumours broke, information on who we might or might not be considering had been pretty well protected. No ITK, no ‘leaks’ aside from very generalised reporting in which multiple names were mentioned in regards to a shortlist, the types of names that we, as fans, could have (and did) already come up with. There’s no way that our beloved beat journalist, Alasdair Gold, would tweet his modest equivalent of a ‘here we go!’ unless he’d essentially got the nod from the club that Conte was a goer.

Alasdair’s interpretation of the current state of play is that Spurs and Conte both got deep into talks before Spurs realised that he wouldn’t be all that focussed on young players after all and Conte realised that he wouldn’t have bucketloads of money to spend (my words, not Ally G’s!). This is extraordinary, completely baffling to me, to the extent where I am not completely convinced that it happened this way, because it’s so unbelievably amateurish. These deal-breaker elements of their respective lists of needs and wants would surely be covered at the very beginnings of negotiations?!

Here are the possible options for what happened as I see it:

  1. We, as a club, are not only terrible at communicating to the fans, but terrible at communicating to managerial targets as well. We didn’t map out our expectations to Antonio Conte or, indeed, listen to his own set of expectations. The negotiations subsequently genuinely fell through because we reached an impasse.
  2. We decided that values were not all that important after all, went all-in on Conte and he rejected us. Maybe because he wanted a higher salary, maybe because he wanted to bring more staff than we would allow, maybe because he wanted more assurances over transfer spend or Harry Kane’s future, maybe multiple parts or all of the above.
  3. Daniel Levy got so far along the line with the deal and then had an epiphany — hang on a minute, I wanted free-flowing football and young players.
  4. Spurs played Alasdair and other reporters close to the club and used them to drive up season ticket renewals. It feels rather like a conspiracy theory but, well, it’s Spurs.
  5. Spurs are playing another candidate — Conte never got as far along the track as it seemed from the outside and, instead, we’re using this to try to put pressure on another candidate. Pochettino?
  6. A combination of some of the above — Alasdair seems to think maybe both 2 and 3.

I wasn’t all-in on Antonio Conte myself. He is a brilliantly talented and highly-successful manager, but he didn’t feel the right fit for us based on what Daniel Levy claims to be looking for. Let’s remind ourselves of what that is:

Chairman’s message, May 2021

That’s just not Conte. He plays fairly entertaining football, but it’s certainly not free-flowing — rather, he drills players to within an inch of their lives and creates a series of mechanical automations and rules to get the ball from A to B to C effectively and, as I say, not unattractively. I think the football would have been an undeniable improvement on what we saw last season, we would have built from the back in possession structures, but ‘free-flowing’ is pushing it. He’s also just not a coach who would be focused on using young players; he would expect significant outlay and he would want proven, Premier League-ready quality; he needs near enough immediate success because he only tends to stay around for relatively short spells, as we can see from his managerial record.

Antonio Conte’s managerial record; Wikipedia

And he’s a pretty abrasive character who is often outspoken and both challenging to and demanding of his superiors. Let’s be honest, he’s a bit of a dickhead. I’m sure we’d have accepted him as our dickhead, but a dickhead nonetheless.

So, from the outside at least, we appear to be back to square one, albeit a slightly different square one. Because it does appear that we are about to hire Fabio Paratici as a Director of Football or Sporting Director or whatever title we decide to give him. He’s a man we tried to hire in around 2018 when Pochettino was in charge.

One must assume that Levy has already spoken to Paratici about his own managerial shortlist and wouldn’t have approached Conte were he not on it because, well, that would be insane. So, I guess, now some if not all of the negotiations will be delegated to Paratici and he picks up the baton. Perhaps the club goes back in for Pochettino and pays whatever it takes to prise him away from Paris Saint-Germain. Perhaps they move on to a different target.

It is really important that Spurs get their man sooner rather than later, as we have a very fulsome summer of business ahead of us with a lot of deadwood to flog and some key positions to fill. Perhaps some of that can be done before an appointment is made but it would seem very wrong to start buying and selling players en masse without a coach in place, albeit having a Director of Football makes that slightly more palatable.

As it stands, we appear to be a club that has become very disorganised when it comes to on-pitch matters and that’s exactly why the appointment of a Director of Football is a good decision.

I am the host of The Extra Inch; a Spurs podcast that delves into the analytical side of Tottenham games. Check us out! If you already follow the podcast, consider becoming an xSub for additional content.

I recently added a Donate button to this site. It’s on the ‘About‘ page. I explain why on there. Cheers!

Join the conversation

  1. Excellent. Reason 1: Club are terrible communicators and completely cynical and out of touch: ESL / £61.75 AV ticket / AV program statement. The negotiation is a rock and an immovable object. Levy cannot get out of the football issues. Conte is smart enough to test Levy in the negotiation. Regardless the relationship would never work due to the personalities. Reason 2: Levy does not care about playing style as he recruited Mourinho so that excuse like the May statement (and whining excuses in the Villa program) are not relevant. Reason 3: See (2). And it is about money. Conte can be the Italian Redknapp (Portsmouth, Birmingham anyone) so there must be some limits. Reason 4: Yes, the Conte thing was to drive up season ticket sales. I know people who were holding out and are completely detached from the club by the last 18 months. (shame on me caving early, what a wimp!) Reason 5: Playing candidates off at this level is very dangerous when our Levy reputation will make any candidate cautious. I never though Pochettino would happen. Pochettino used us to force PSG to commit and firm up support for him and would never walk away from a contract - he would always honour a contract. Also Levy stupidity to think Pochettino would leave for Spurs without PSG getting serious money. PSG also determined as they realised if they are to manage the club and its superstars they must back their manager. The Pochettino plus Conte rejections now puts the club in a very bad position. BTW they should have done the Director of Football ages ago as this could have done some continuity over this period. All players sells and buys are on ice now. Reason 6: Alasdair Youtube pod on Conte was very carefully measured and he raised all the key points in 2 and 3 - it was a brilliant sober analysis. WTF the club did not see that? That is why I discount 2 and 3 as Conte has proven he is a walkaway manager if thwarted. Levy would know that!? Unless of course this is just yet another example of Levy overplaying his hand, Grealish, Madison etc etc. Reason 2 it is, Levy detachment from reality and poor judgement is fully exposed and Conte has proved it. Levy big boy fantasies and flashy selections do not work without the funds Levy will NOT provide: He wants to play but not to pay. The cynical side benefit is the season ticket sales boost but Levy does not give a sh1t about the supporters. I still want Potter or Den Hag. Both are a much better fit with a Director of Football in place. Who will come to Spurs now
    1. Hi Paul, great points. On your second, I do wonder if Levy has realised from the Mourinho backlash that the style of football will definitely impact upon engagement/bums on seats.
  2. Thanks Windy. Great analysis as always. Very interesting. It feels like the club is like a shopping trolley veering around all over the place. What's clear from all this malarkey is there is no strategic vision or strategy in place. That depresses the Hell out of me. It means we continue to take the 'pot-luck' approach to managers. It can be great (Poch, Jol, Redknapp) but it can also be shite (pretty much everyone else). I wasn't sold on Conte. Obviously a good manager but also obviously a complete dickhead. Hard to imagine a worse combination than Levy and Conte. Hope you're safe and well. Keep smiling.
    1. I love your shopping trolley analogy, Russ - like my dad trying to avoid the confectionary aisle when my mum sends him out to the supermarket with a strict list...
  3. Duncan Castles suggested on The Transfer Window podcast yesterday that it didn't harm Conte at all to have Spurs publicly pursuing him, but Conte's heart was never into the Spurs job as much as the potential PSG or Madrid jobs. For Conte, if Spurs stepping up to sign him spooked PSG into making a similar run, good, but it doesn't hurt Conte's name to let it play out and say no at the end of the day. We're a stalking horse, yet again, except this time we're a stalking horse against "year off" or "potential opening" which just hurts. There's still a possibility that if Conte actually does want to got to PSG it could happen, but Poch has too much integrity to agitate for an exit like that. Castles also said in that same podcast that several PSG players have no interest in playing for Conte for reasons you pointed out. Just a mess. I think this is all #2 - like Gold said in his earlier video, it's all just a meme. Levy's head got turned, but Conte was interested in the attention, not the job.
    1. Makes a lot of sense, Kris - being back-page news for a few days was probably quite handy for Conte.


Your email address will not be published.