How Tottenham’s ‘extraordinary’ Ivan Perisic won Antonio Conte faith
Ivan Perisic has signed for Tottenham on a two-year contract to become the first confirmed deal of an exciting summer transfer window in north London.
The arrival of Perisic, who will leave Inter Milan when his current San Siro deal expires next month, is being hailed as quite the coup for Spurs, back in the Champions League and with Antonio Conte now committed to staying at the club after a £150million cash injection from owners ENIC and productive talks with managing director of football Fabio Paratici.
The former long-term Manchester United target - rumoured to have rejected both Chelsea and Juventus in favour of a move to N17 - boasts a wealth of experience and has won domestic silverware across Europe, while his sheer versatility and ability to be deployed in a number of different positions and tactical systems makes him a dream capture for the manager.
Perisic, who turned 33 in February, can operate effectively as a wing-back, where he will be expected to spend a great deal of his time at Spurs, while he can also be played as more of a conventional winger, attacking midfielder, support striker or indeed anywhere across a front three if necessary.
Conte has also seen first-hand how Perisic is able to alter perceptions and fight back to win his place in the team, with the pair initially enduring something of a difficult relationship upon the former’s arrival at Inter as the successor to Luciano Spalletti in 2019.
It was not long before Perisic was sent out on loan to Bayern Munich, where he won three trophies including a memorable Bundesliga and Champions League double.
“Perisic did try to do what I asked, but I have negative sensations and I don’t think he can give the team what it needs. We need to evaluate things carefully,” Conte said before that exit, per Football Italia.
“I cannot complain about his effort and dedication, but there are roles to be respected. You cannot change the characteristics of a player, even if he tries.”
Bayern decided not to take up their option to sign Perisic on a permanent deal, despite the Croatian - who has amassed 113 caps since making his senior international debut in 2011, featuring in multiple major tournaments - scoring eight goals and providing 10 assists in 35 matches across all competitions.
That led to a return to Inter, where he was able to win over Conte with his determination, desire and enthusiasm despite constant transfer rumours concerning the likes of United and Paris Saint-Germain.
“I am happy for Ivan, because in the end he had an incredible experience with Bayern Munich, a winning one, in which he won three trophies,” Conte said upon his return.
“Now he’s back, with great determination to play for Inter and help us out, to put himself at the service of the team, and I am happy that he’s got this desire.
“Also, because when you’ve got this kind of determination, this enthusiasm, this desire, in the end everything gets easier for the coach.”
Perisic would end up establishing himself as a vital first-team fixture under Conte, making 42 appearances during the Serie A title-winning season of 2021/22.
As well as his work ethic, it appears to have been a renewed focus on his defensive efforts and responsibilities that eventually earned the Italian’s faith.
“We sent Perisic to Bayern because he was not prepared to do the defending work I had asked for. He returned with a different mentality,” Conte would later claim.
“I asked him the same things as last season, but he showed that he has extraordinary characteristics and needs to believe in himself more.
“The moment he started doing that, he started to play. He can be even more decisive.”