Antonio Conte has refused to offer guarantees about his future at Spurs, saying his focus was purely on the present and nothing later because “it may be too late later”.
The manager, who signed just a 20-month contract when he succeeded Nuno Espirito Santo in November, is keen to promote his squad during this month’s transfer window, after repeatedly calling them not strong enough.
Conte has put unobtrusive pressure on the chairman, Daniel Levy, with a series of messages about what he feels he needs, and the message he sent on Friday has alarmed the club’s fans. They are terrified that Conte might quit if Levy doesn’t back him up.
There is no indication that Conte will be ready to go out in February if he doesn’t get what he wants – the summer window may be a different story – although he has remained in a provocative mood.
“Honestly, I like to live in the present and not think too much about the future,” Conte said, when asked if he could guarantee he would remain at the club beyond the January window and the next in the summer, no matter what. “It is important to live in the present, and to try to improve the situation…because the present is now, and the future is late. And then it may be too late for us. We should focus on the present. Then we’ll see.”
Conte was pressed about it and said he was enjoying his time at Spurs and that he had a “good relationship” with Levy and managing director of football, Fabio Paratici. Conte added: “I want to work, I want to improve this team, and I repeat, we must focus on the present because, for sure, I want to improve, we want to improve.”
Conte tends to be more outspoken, and more political, both before and during the transition period, and no doubt maneuvering from a position of strength. A proven winner, Spurs’ support is fortunate to own, especially after Nuno’s failed tenure, while Levy has quite a bit of credit in the bank with some of them. On the other hand, if history has shown us anything, it is that Levi does not like to be heavily armed.
Spurs’ recruitment has been frustrating since 2016-17 – the season in which Conte first came to England to manage Chelsea – and from their purchases that cost more than £10m, Lucas Moura and Pierre-Emile Hogberg may have been only successes, despite hopes. Still high for Christian Romero.
It is a major reason for Conte’s complaint that the club has slipped from rivals to what he calls the “middle” level. He is desperate to get the upcoming engagements right, to see his ambitions matched.
“Yes, of course,” Conte said. “I never lose my ambition and this should be very clear. I love to fight for something important. I don’t want to lose my will and my desire. Otherwise I will oppose myself. I must be the same person every moment.”
Conte’s cut into an increasingly frustrating figure of late, despite his positive league record – five wins, three draws and no defeats. He lamented the lack of team depth, the gap between the top teams, and when asked if he realized the scale of the task at Spurs would be too big, he started laughing.
“I decided to accept this job because working in this environment, working in a modern club, is good for every coach,” Conte said. “As you well know, when you are outside, you can imagine the situation. Then, when you are inside the situation, you can understand every aspect very well.”
It’s unlikely that when Conte was persuaded to take up the role, it led him to expect an overhaul of the team in January. He sidestepped a question about this, saying that because he had yet to go through a transfer window with Spurs, he could not comment on what they would have to spend.
Conte said: “I enjoy working at Tottenham because I found a great environment, a great stadium and a great training ground. We definitely have to raise the level of the team. [up] to the same level as our infrastructure.”