Antonio Conte lost the Tottenham dressing room with frustrated players relieved over exit

·3-min read
Antonio Conte lost the Tottenham dressing room with frustrated players relieved over exit

Tottenham called time on Antonio Conte's tenure after believing the manager had lost the dressing room and would have little chance of guiding the club to another top-four finish following his furious evisceration of the players at Southampton.

The Italian on Sunday night left Spurs ‘by mutual agreement’ and was replaced by his assistant Cristian Stellini, who will take charge of the final 10 games of the season with support from Conte's entire backroom staff - with the exception of his brother Gianluca, who has been relieved of his role as an analyst.

Julian Nagelsmann, sacked by Bayern Munich last week, is a front-runner for the job in the summer, while Mauricio Pochettino and Luis Enrique, who are also free agents, may be considered, along with Brighton's Roberto De Zerbi, Brentford boss Thomas Frank and Oliver Glasner of Eintracht Frankfurt.

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Conte's departure came over a week after he torched his relationship with the squad following the 3-3 draw at St Mary's, accusing them of being "selfish" and lacking "spirit" and professionalism.

Conte flew back to his native Italy the day after the game and showed no desire to return to the club, with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy finally agreeing an exit package with the 53-year-old remotely on Sunday night, following days of talks.

End of the road: Antonio Conte has left Tottenham after only 16 months in charge of the club (Action Images via Reuters)
End of the road: Antonio Conte has left Tottenham after only 16 months in charge of the club (Action Images via Reuters)

Conte earned around £15million a season and would be due around £4m if Spurs agreed to pay-off the remainder of his deal. Discussions between Levy and Conte are likely to have centred on the terms of his pay-off and any possible top-four bonuses in his contract, with Spurs currently fourth in the table.

With the bulk of the squad away on international duty, Levy considered a variety of options last week, including the possibility of keeping Conte in charge or hiring a permanent successor immediately.

While Spurs accepted Conte's explanation that his rant was directed solely at the players and acknowledged that he had used explosive comments to motivate the dressing room previously - including after a 1-0 defeat at Burnley last season -there was a feeling that he had gone too far at Saints and would have little chance of getting the players back on side for the run-in.

Many of the squad expected Conte to be sacked and were pleased at the prospect of never having to work with him again, leaving the club feeling they had little choice but to part ways with the 53-year-old. The players had grown tired with Conte's repetitive training sessions, refusal to set a schedule in advance and habit of deflecting the blame for results onto them in public.

Levy is understood to have held preliminary conservations with Thomas Tuchel's camp last week, only for Bayern to act decisively in appointing the former Chelsea manager as a replacement for Nagelsmann. Spurs will seek talks with Nagelsmann, 35, but have not set a timeline for appointing Levy's 12th permanent manager.

The German is likely to want to wait until the summer to decompress and consider his options, with Real Madrid set to be in the market for a top coach if Carlo Ancelotti leaves the club. Pochettino is interested in a return to Spurs but could also be in the frame for the Real job, having twice been targeted by Los Blancos in the past.

Fabio Paratici, Spurs’ managing director, is leading the search for a new coach but is himself facing an uncertain future at the club. Stellini and coach Ryan Mason have been managing a skeleton squad during the international break and will hold their first full training session on Wednesday, when the internationals, including England captain Harry Kane, begin returning to the club. Spurs are back in action a week on Monday, against Everton at Goodison Park.