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- Italian association football player and manager
Spurs are five points from fourth place with two games in hand after Conte became their first manager to go unbeaten in his opening seven league games, raising hopes that he could quickly return them to the Champions League after a two-year absence.
But the head coach has consistently emphasised the gap in quality to the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool, and says one of those sides must suffer "a big failure" for Spurs to have a chance of finishing in the top four this season.
"Honestly, I have been in football for many years, enough to tell you that qualifying for the Champions League takes years, not just two or three months or one transfer market," Conte said ahead of the New Year's Day visit to Watford.
"If we think [like] this, football is not this way and at this moment there are important teams who see those [Champions League places] as important spots this season.
"To get a place in the Champions League it means somebody has to fail and it must be a big failure for there to be a place free in the Champions League."
Conte was speaking as the January transfer window opened and he has called for investment, saying the club must improve the level of the squad after he spent his first two months in job carefully evaluating his players.
But he also warned that spending would not guarantee a return to Europe's top table and says Spurs must build a foundation over a number of years – something he is prepared to do.
"I think there are four big, big teams at this moment, and then there are other teams trying to build with important investment this year to close this gap," Conte said.
"But it is not only going to happen in one transfer market. Or [it's not the case that] if you invest money, you have a switch that you can flick to get you in [the Champions League].
"Football is complicated. It is not only money, You have to build something important over years. I am here to do this but I know it is going to be very difficult.
“Everybody keeps asking about getting into the Champions League but I want to be very honest with everybody and to tell them we have an important job to do and need time and patience. Now I am sure of that after I made my evaluations [of the squad] after two months."