Conte lauds ‘outstanding’ Tottenham star but hints at his ‘only problem’; tries to laugh off injury woes

Conte praises Bentancur Credit: Alamy
Conte praises Bentancur Credit: Alamy

Antonio Conte has heaped praise on Tottenham Hotspur centre-midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur ahead of his side’s game against Liverpool on Sunday.

Spurs paid around £20m to sign Bentancur from Juventus on deadline day during the winter transfer window earlier this year. He joined on the same day as Dejan Kulusevski.

The midfielder hit the ground running in a Spurs shirt and he has been one of their stronger performers at the start of this campaign.

Conte has now lauded the 25-year-old but he wants him to “desire” to become a “top player”.

“Rodrigo [Bentancur] has only one problem in my opinion and he has the real possibility to be really, really top but we know to become a top player, you need to will it and to desire this,” Conte told reporters (via Football London).

“In the last period, I think Rodrigo is playing in an outstanding way and he is a player who is giving us a lot on the pitch, outside of the pitch and we are talking about a player who is showing the possibility to be a top midfielder in the world, one of the best.

“But to be a good player and the top, there is a difference and when you are medium to become good, it is not so difficult.

“To become good to top, I think he has everything and can become a top, top midfielder so for this reason I push him every day. I push him in the training session because he has this quality to become. Also, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is making great progress if you compare this season.”

Tottenham have more injuries than most in the weeks leading up to the World Cup with several key players out of action.

Conte tried to discuss their issues lightheartedly but he admits that they are in a difficult position.

“It’s better to start with a smile,” Conte laughed.

“We need to face this situation. We need to finish these three games in the best possible. We have these injuries. Richarlison is not available for the game, same for [Cristian] Romero.

“[Rodrigo] Bentancur is much better and today he was a part of the training session. The same for [Dejan] Kulusevski, he had half a training session with us.

“The problem with Lucas Moura is having different faces for his pain. Today it was really bad and they said he was really worried about this. I asked him to try to be available. Also [Heung-Min Son] now is having surgery.”

Players are being ruled out of the World Cup by the hour it seems and Conte thinks the current schedule in England is “impossible”.

“We are seeing this situation as impossible, it is impossible for the future and it would be important for the future to understand that I hear about the welfare of the players but it is only a polite way to show you are really interested in their welfare because they are not really worried about the welfare of the players if the schedule is this.

“The most important thing to them is the show must go on so if this is true, I don’t want to talk about the welfare of the players.”

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