Antonio Conte dice roll must work for Daniel Levy as Tottenham rip up long-term strategy to push for quick glory

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·4-min read
Antonio Conte dice roll must work for Daniel Levy as Tottenham rip up long-term strategy to push for quick glory
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It would be naive to describe the appointment of Antonio Conte as any sort of “last chance” for Daniel Levy but the deal nonetheless has the feel of a big play from the chairman, a “go big or go home” roll of the dice after a multitude of missteps.

Levy’s reputation has been damaged by a series of misjudgments, from the hasty decision to join the European Super League to the even hastier hiring of Nuno Espirito Santo.

Mingled with the boos and chants against Nuno during Saturday’s defeat to Manchester United, which ultimately prompted Levy to sack the Portuguese on Monday, there were calls for the chairman to go.

Whether or not Conte is a success at Spurs, Levy could remain in charge of the club for another five or even 10 years but there is a sense that the heat from fans would become particularly intense if another appointment blows up in his face.

After failing to back Mauricio Pochettino and then two misjudged managerial appointments in Jose Mourinho and Nuno, there is a certain irony that Levy has ended up with a genuinely world-class coach, one of the top five in the world, and by far the best available free agent to fill Spurs’ vacant managerial position.

The arrival of Conte immediately eases the pressure on Levy and further strengthens the position of Fabio Paratici, who, in one fell swoop, has entirely justified his appointment as managing director by landing his friend at the second attempt.

Spurs would surely not have managed to attract a world-class coach in their current state without the influence of Paratici, who worked with Conte at Juventus and convinced him to join the club on Monday night.

Paratici first tried to appoint his compatriot in June as a permanent successor to Mourinho but talks broke down over Conte’s apparent concerns over the club’s blueprint for success, with Spurs sources briefing that the 52-year-old was reluctant to work with young players.

The big question now is: what has changed? For one thing, Conte is itching to return to work, having walked out on Inter Milan at the end of last season, but, more importantly, Spurs are thought to have made more concessions, promising the former Chelsea boss money to reshape the squad and more control over transfer targets.

An obvious concern is the club’s ability to satisfy Conte’s demands but the narrative around Levy refusing to back his managers is gradually changing. As promised by the chairman, there has been a clear uptick in Tottenham’s willingness to spend big since moving to the new stadium.

Last summer, they agreed to deals worth over £100million, even if £42m on Cristian Romero has been deferred until next year, while they have also recruited big-money signings in Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele since moving to their new home. Spurs should be able to satisfy Conte, at least initially.

While Conte's appointment is an impressive coup and a show of ambition from Spurs, immediately returning them to relevance and potentially leaving Nuno's reign as a forgettable footnote, it nonetheless speaks to one of the enduring criticisms of Levy: that he lacks a clear and coherent vision for the football side of the club.

Everyone at Spurs spent Nuno’s tenure talking earnestly about starting a new cycle and looking long-term but Conte has little truck for building from the bottom.

He has made a career on achieving instant success and shown a willingness to be pragmatic and short-termist in the pursuit of it, so with his appointment on an 18-month contract Spurs have effectively abandoned a new four-or five-year cycle in favour of a push towards quick glory.

That said, there is far more quality at Spurs than the squad showed under Mourinho or Nuno, and there is perhaps no better manager in the world to immediately instil an unbreakable spirit and mentality into the group and transform the players on the training ground.

Conte has won a remarkable five titles in seven seasons, so Levy is banking on the Italian being worth ripping up his long-term strategy for. Spurs are simply not big enough to turn him down.

Such are Conte’s qualities as a head coach, there is every chance he will quickly make Spurs a force to reckoned with again, while for Levy you wonder if the appointment will work because it simply has to.

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