Antonio Conte ‘very close’ to Tottenham return as Cristian Stellini talks taking top job

Antonio Conte ‘very close’ to Tottenham return as Cristian Stellini talks taking top job

Cristian Stellini does not expect Antonio Conte to be back on the touchline for Tottenham's derby against his former club Chelsea on Sunday but says the head coach is "very close" to returning to work.

Conte has been recuperating from surgery at home in Italy since the middle of last week and Stellini took charge of last weekend's 2-0 win over West Ham.

"We don't know yet [when he will be back] but my feeling is that he's very close to coming back," Conte's assistant said on Friday. "No, I don't think [he will be back on Sunday]. It is not the moment but he is very close because I feel also his energy. We have a call three time a day, also in the evenings so absolutely I feel Antonio like he is here."

Conte had emergency gallbladder surgery on February 1 and Stellini took charge of the subsequent 1-0 win over Manchester City before the head coach returned for the defeats to Leicester and AC Milan. The manager subsequently was advised to rest following a routine check-up after the Champions League game in his homeland.

Every training session is filmed and the footage is sent to Conte, with Stellini insisting the head coach remains involved in every decision.

"We speak a lot and if we compare when Antonio had the surgery three weeks ago to now, it is completely different," Stellini continued.

"He is completely involved. We transfer to him our feeling, this sensation we have on the players. He can watch also the training so the energy is coming again 100 per cent so it is completely different now Antonio is back and he is involved in every situation and every decision.

"I am looking forward to having him back and I think when he comes back ... the impact of Antonio will be incredible."

Stellini has a 100 per cent record from six matches deputising for Conte at Inter Milan and Spurs, including the Champions League win over Marseille in November, when Conte was banned from the touchline.

The 47-year-old has spent most of his career assisting Conte at Juventus, Inter and now Spurs, although had brief spells in charge of Genoa's Under-21 side and Italian lower-league side Alessandria.

Cristian Stellini has won every game when deputising for Antonio Conte. (Action Images via Reuters)
Cristian Stellini has won every game when deputising for Antonio Conte. (Action Images via Reuters)

Asked if the experience of filling in for Conte had made him want to become a number one in future, Stellini said: "I don't know.

"I enjoy a lot being a coach in charge but when you take a decision you have to do your best. Sometimes I think about being a [head] coach, like a dream. But I'm an assistant and that's the reality. I enjoy being an assistant. I feel I'm good in this job enough to continue.

"Taking decisions when you're an assistant is different the way you take them, because you think more about training and creating a good pace in the training. Also working maybe sometimes individually with players and you can enjoy a lot this aspect, because an assistant wants to improve the players individually and wants to create the right pace in the training.

"It's amazing when you feel the player following you. When you are a [head] coach you have to take the decision and feel the responsibility, take a decision that affects the game and the win. So it's different, the responsibility is much more but maybe this feeling you enjoy to win and to take decisions.

"Like an assistant you decide on the pace and the training and help your coach in the decisions."

Stellini says Spurs have no fresh injury concerns for Chelsea's visit, with Rodrigo Bentancur, Hugo Lloris (both knee), Yves Bissouma (ankle) and Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring) all sidelined.