Antonio Conte talks up ‘important’ Tottenham defender Eric Dier ahead of possible England return

·4-min read
Antonio Conte talks up ‘important’ Tottenham defender Eric Dier ahead of possible England return

Antonio Conte has said "reliable" Eric Dier is now among the top defenders in the Premier League but insists he has too much respect for Gareth Southgate to try to convince him to recall the centre-half for this month’s internationals.

Dier has been tipped to return to Southgate's England squad for the first time in nearly two years after establishing himself as the lynchpin at the heart of Conte's back three.

The Tottenham head coach says he can see Dier's desire to become a top defender "every day in his eyes" and challenged the 28-year-old to score more goals.

"Now in England, we are talking about the best and most difficult league in the world and now Eric is [at] an important level of defenders," Conte said of Dier, whose last England cap came against Iceland in November 2020.

"I see other defenders and if I try to make a comparison, I think you have to put important money if you want to sign him, but Tottenham does not want to sell him.

"Eric improved a lot since I arrived. For sure we are talking about a reliable player. If he deserves to go [with England] or not depends on what the coach of the national team, Southgate, thinks.

"I have too much respect for him to tell something wrong or to try to convince him.

"The big improvement about Eric is that now he is a player who in every game is 100 per cent focused," Conte added. "He is a reliable player. He’s not a player that alternates performance - big performance or sometimes you drop.

"He’s providing great continuity in his role. For me, he’s a really important player. He’s playing every game. I can tell you he’s a really good guy with great will, great desire to work and to improve himself. He knows very well he has space for improvement. I see every day in his eyes the desire to become stronger, stronger, stronger. To become a top defender. I see this in his eyes."

Dier scored a stooping header in Spurs' 4-1 win over Southampton on the opening day, and Conte continued: "He has to continue in this way, with his attention, with his focus and his desire. For sure in set-pieces if he scores some more goals , I am more happy.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"I think that maybe a player like him so tall, so strong physically has to be more effective to go on corners and set-pieces to score more goals. I find one more situation for him to try and improve."

After failing to score in Wednesday's 1-1 draw at West Ham, Harry Kane can match Thierry Henry's record 42 Premier League goals in London derbies against Fulham on Saturday.

Conte said it was "a pity" that Kane does not have a team trophy to go with his numerous individual accolades and milestones but says the England captain is determined to change that.

"Records underline that you are doing something special, and I think Harry in his career is doing something special in [terms of] personal achievements because it's really a pity with so many personal big achievements and you don’t win [trophies]," Conte said.

 (PA)
(PA)

"Usually when you score a lot of goals for your national team and club you deserve to have a good win on your back, but we are trying to work and help him to find and get this target. You know very well for us that Harry is important and we are talking about a world class striker but I see the desire in him, the desire to do something special.

“When you win it means you lift trophies, Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and with the national team the Euros, World Cup and these are trophies you have to lift and you are talking about a top player and I think he deserves this."

Earlier on Thursday, Conte played down the short-terms prospects of Djed Spence, Bryan Gil (both 21) and Pape Matar Sarr breaking into his team but he insisted that 21-year-old Ryan Sessesgnon, who could start against his former club on Saturday, is in a different category.

"We are talking about a really good player, a young player that can become stronger but this is the difference between other young players," Conte said of the wing-back.

"We are talking about a player who play many games and is reliable for every game, not only for tomorrow or FA Cup, for every game he is ready."