Antonio Conte fires a warning to his Tottenham players

‘It’s a pity to see a good player not exploiting their whole capacity’: Antonio Conte fires a warning to his players ahead of his first league game in charge of Tottenham

  • Antonio Conte is set to take charge of his first league game in charge of Spurs
  • The Italian is completely different to his predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo 
  • He will demand more out of his players and will expect everything in return  

‘Talent means trouble’ was an old showbiz mantra from the West End and there is no doubt that in Antonio Conte, Tottenham have landed themselves A-list talent. They may have also embroiled themselves in a fair degree of trouble.

But in terms of force of personality, they have employed a winner and a phenomenon. Conte and Nuno Espirito Santo are chalk and cheese, one an extrovert, the other an undemonstrative, quiet coach. Conte split his suit trousers leaping into the fans to celebrate the first goal of his management at Stamford Bridge, once pulled his calf in another celebration and will not let a barbed comment from an opposing manager lie. In the modern age, fans enjoy such leadership.

‘His words assault you,’ said Andrea Pirlo of his team talks at Juventus. He meant it in a good way, but the same phrase might be used for those on the wrong end of a Conte explosion.

Antonio Conte is set to take charge of his first league game in charge of Tottenham 

He’s never rude, he doesn’t swear when angry but he is ferocious if he suspects that any member of staff doesn’t share the same utter obsession with winning and doesn’t demonstrate desolation at defeat.

Conte can fly into a rage over almost anything. But always with the aim of exacting high standards. He is much more intense than Jose Mourinho, say players who have worked with both.

Conte will give you everything, but he expects everything in return. ‘Every single player must think, “I wake up at the start of the day to improve myself”,’ says Conte. ‘The player has to do this from the start of the morning until he goes to sleep.

‘It’s a pity when you see a good player that is not exploiting 100 per cent of their capacity.’

Conte has already proved himself in the Premier League after winning the title with Chelsea

Spurs fans have seen plenty of that in recent times. Conte has made it clear this will take time. ‘I know this club has not won for many years but it doesn’t happen after one, two, three days or one or two months,’ he said last week.

And the hard work, it appears, has already begun. Conte’s pre-match press conference was scheduled on Friday for 1.30pm. By two o’clock, Spurs had sent an email to inform waiting journalists that the players were still training. Conte sat down in front of the cameras at 2.32pm.

Yet he also has charm in abundance. Comfortable and open with the media, he made a point of apologising for his lateness before anyone could ask a question.

Conte made a deep impression on Chelsea staff at Stamford Bridge, learning names and getting to know people. He attended the staff Christmas party and spent two hours there, organised a pre-season barbecue for team and families and a family day out at the Flip Out trampoline park in Wandsworth.

The issue for Daniel Levy is that he is the antithesis of a low-maintenance manager, as evidenced by his numerous ruptures with clubs. Andrea Agnelli reportedly still hasn’t forgiven him for walking out on Juventus when transfer funds weren’t made available after he had won the club three league titles. Conte complained that he was being asked to dine in a €100-a-head restaurant with €10 in his pocket. His end at Chelsea was bitter and ended in an employment tribunal.

Tottenham’s managing director Fabio Paratic played a big role in luring Conte to the club 

Yet those who work with him keep coming back for more, as did Fabio Paratici, the key link in his current deal. Paratici was managing director at Juve and it seems unlikely Levy alone would have persuaded Conte to make this leap, given that the former Italy boss had rejected Spurs in the summer after taking one look at the transfer budget and the Harry Kane situation.

Even his mentor and patron, Giorgio Perinetti, the man who Conte thanks for opening up his pathway to coaching, has had his disagreements. Perinetti, now sporting director at Siena, persuaded Bari to employ Conte after the coach failed in his first job at Arezzo. He spent two seasons at Bari, taking them from relegation fodder to being Serie B champions. Yet having reached Serie A, he walked out.

‘He asked us to have the signings and the team ready for pre-season,’ said Perinetti. ‘The board said, “No, we’ll give you a good team but we need all summer to achieve that”. For this reason, he decided to [go].’

Perinetti had worked at Juventus when Conte played there. He wasn’t the best player but he was the most important in the dressing-room. ‘Antonio was captain and I understood that he was the leader of the club,’ recalled Perinetti. ‘He played with players like Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids and Didier Deschamps. But the leader in the midfield was Antonio Conte. That’s why I always thought he could be coach.’

Harry Kane hailed the appointment of Antonio Conte as ‘ambitious’ earlier in the week 

Harry Kane will doubtless like the intensity. He has already hailed the appointment as a show of ‘great ambition’. The England captain is a fastidious trainer. In Conte he may well find a soulmate.

Plenty of players fall out with him. Willian edited out Conte’s face from a photo of Chelsea celebrating the 2018 FA Cup win. In the immediate aftermath of the 2017 title win, Conte texted all the team to say: ‘Well done, but work hard over the summer and don’t come back overweight.’ Diego Costa jokingly texted back a beer and LOL emoji, to which Conte famously replied: ‘Hi Diego, I hope you are well. Thanks for the season we spent together. Good luck for next year but you are not in my plan.’

Yet players such as Victor Moses were transformed under Conte, who saw him as a vital link man in patterns of play at wing-back. He saw his potential, gave him responsibility and Moses thrived.

Conte is confident he will improve players like Dele Alli, who has failed to impress in a while 

Conte has a habit of getting the best out of players other managers have given up on. Dele Alli, once one of the most exciting young English players of his generation, has become lost under Mourinho and Nuno. Perhaps, at last, Tanguy Ndombele has found a manager to allow him to shine.

‘I think my best as a coach is to improve players,’ says Conte. ‘I think I do [this] very well. It is important that the player must want to improve otherwise it is very difficult for me and my staff to do it.

‘In Tottenham, my job will be this: to improve every single player. If I do it, it means that the team will go up to another level than now.’

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