When Antonio Conte took over at Tottenham, they were ninth in the Premier League table. As Sunday brought an end to the season, Spurs finished fourth and a return to the Champions League now awaits for the first time since 2019/20.
The disjointed and dysfunctional side that was sleepwalking to mediocrity under Nuno Espirito Santo looks a far cry from Conte’s well-oiled, ferocious unit — but the disparity serves well to underline the enormity of the Italian’s achievement.
In such a short space of time, Spurs have transformed from careless to clinical, vindicating Daniel Levy’s pursuit of another vanity project by delivering tangible success, rather than the discord and disharmony that dominated the latter stages of Jose Mourinho’s north London tenure.
Indeed Conte has developed a reputation for delivering success, a serial winner in Italy and on these shores, the fastidiously-animated coach is a man who “knows exactly what he wants and needs”, according to club captain Hugo Lloris — and that belief permeates the squad.
Prone to itchy feet if things start going south, the question was: will Levy back Conte to quench his thirst for immediate and continued success?
Well, the club announced a £150million “equity injection” from majority shareholders to create “greater financial flexibility and the ability to further invest on and off the pitch.” Reports suggest the club are preparing to hand Conte a transfer war chest, and as many as six players could come in this summer.
So far three players are set to arrive on July 1st albeit Ivan Perisic and Fraser Forster join as free agents. Yves Bissouma is so far the big summer acquisition, Tottenham sending £25m to Brighton for his signature, will that fee be surpassed before September 3rd?
Sky Bet welcome offer: How to get £30 in free bets
It's a good time to sign up to Sky Bet. Not only have they just upped the free bets on offer from £20 to £30, but the minimum stake is just 5pm. To put this another, qualifying readers* will earn £30 from just a 5p wager. You can follow THIS LINK to claim, or click the image below.
*New customers only. First single & E/W bet only. 5pm minimum stake. 3x £10 bet tokens. Free bet stakes not included in returns. Free bets exclude virtuals. Free bets are no withdrawable. No free bet expiry. Eligibility restrictions and further Ts&Cs apply. 18+ only. begambleaware.org
Conte won the Scudetto with Inter Milan whilst playing two up front in a 3-5-2. The prospect of Richarlison dovetailing Kane is certainly a tantalising one on paper.
But of course, that leaves question marks as to where Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski fit into the system.
Still, it will offer Conte an alternative route, a Plan B in what is set to be a fast-paced schedule with the added burden of midweek games. Richarlison’s versatility could also offer Conte the chance to deploy him out wide as an inside forward, staying true to the 3-4-3 that has worked so well for the club since his arrival.
And finally, Richarlison wouldn’t be a dip into unknown waters, like Soldado or Janssen. Having plied his trade in the English top flight since 2017, the 36-capped Brazilian is firmly in tune with the cut and thrust of Premier League football — and you can get odds of 6/4 on him joining Spurs this summer with Sky Bet.
2. Alessandro Bastoni
“I owe him the 90 per cent of what I am today,” Alessandro Bastoni recently said of Conte.
“He gave me so much technically but also in terms of mentality. Not every coach plays a 20-year-old guy in a team like Inter. I owe him so much.”
Having come through the Atalanta academy and completed a move to Inter in 2017, Bastoni was given a chance to showcase his worth in the 2019/20 season at the San Siro by Conte, who had no inhibitions throwing the relatively inexperienced centre-back straight into his system.
It was a masterstroke from the Italian. The following season, Bastoni formed a near-impenetrable bulwark alongside Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar as the Nerazzurri secured the Serie A title, conceding just 35 goals in the process, the fewest of any Italian club that season.
The 23-year-old is said to be among the six players Conte is thinking of bringing to the club this summer. An archetypal modern defender in every conceivable way, Bastoni attempted more final third passes than any other centre-back in Serie A across 2021/22 (297) — he also registered the most assists (three) — with that kind of progressive, forward-thinking play one that could shine in a system designed to get the ball up to Kane, Son and Kulusevski as quick as possible.
3. Pau Torres
Failing that, Milan Skriniar is another name that has been bandied about, and Sky Bet are offering odds of 13/8 on the Spaniard to join Tottenham this summer. The 25-year-old will see his current contract at the El Madrigal expire in June 2024, which means Villarreal will not be in any hurry to sell. Unless, of course, they receive an offer which simply cannot be refused
The defender is has been tipped as suitable for Conte’s system. “Pau fits perfectly in teams which want to play out from the back, with coaches who think that way,” former Villarreal B manager Paco Lopez told The Athletic last year.
Among centre-backs who featured over 30 times in La Liga across 2021/22, Torres boasted the seventh best passing accuracy (85.75), while attempting the second-most final third passes based on those same parameters (343), emphasising just how precise he was with his distribution. Much like Bastoni, Torres’ forward-thinking approach could thrive in a system tailored towards fast breaks and quick transitions between the defensive and attacking phases.
Paddy Power betting offer: How to get £20 in free bets
- Follow THIS LINK (or click the image below) to open a new account using promo code YSKWDX
- Deposit a minimum of £10 using a card.
- Place a Sportsbook bet on Football. For the purposes of this promotion, your first ever settled bet will be counted as the qualifying bet.
- Qualifying requirements must be completed within 90 days of account opening.
18+ only. Place your FIRST bet on any Football market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made via Cards will be eligible for the promotion (Apple Pay excluded). T&Cs apply. Please Gamble Responsibly. For more information, visit begambleaware.org.
4. James Maddison
Whether Conte returns to his old stamping ground to seek reinforcements remains to be seen, but James Maddison is someone closer to home who Spurs have long kept tabs on. The versatile midfielder is another who Conte can move around within his system.
Nominally a deep-lying forward the Coventry-born footballer can also play out wide or in central midfield. In the season just gone he produced 12 goals and eight assists in 35 league outings. Those efforts from midfield will be a welcome return for a side that has often been criticised for relying upon one or two players.
That kind of productivity, combined with his athleticism, and tactical flexibility could be just what the doctor ordered for Conte, and you can get odds of 8/1 on him joining Spurs this summer with Sky Bet.
5. Christian Eriksen
It was one of the moments, if not the moment, of the season seeing Christian Eriksen return to football. Just to witness the Dane strutting his stuff on a turf again following the horrific events at Euro 2020 last summer was truly emotive and tear-stained. That he went on to recapture his glory days and showcase that he’s still one of the most creative playmakers in world football was a bonus in the grand scheme of things, but one that certainly added to the wonder of his return.
And now, three months on from his Brentford debut, the 30-year-old is already being touted with a move back to one of the proverbial big dogs, with his former club Tottenham among those linked with his signature. “I would love to play Champions League football again,” Eriksen admitted to Viaplay earlier this month.
With Spurs now back in Europe’s blue ribbon competition, north London possibly offers Eriksen one more shot at the very peak of the sport, and a potential move to Spurs certainly wouldn’t carry any sentimental baggage; Eriksen has proven he is still one of the very best in the business, and there is currently a creative void missing in the heart of Tottenham’s midfield, even if Conte largely shunned the Dane during their time together at Inter.
At the San Siro, Eriksen found it hard to dislodge Nicolo Barella as the creative hub of Conte’s midfield three. Fortunately, there is no-one close to resembling Barella at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. From his debut in February to the end of the season, only Kevin De Bruyne (42) and Martin Odegaard (38) created more chances in the Premier League than Eriksen (30).
He still has his touch, and you can get odds of 16/1 on Eriksen leaving Brentford upon the expiration of his contract this summer and returning to Spurs.
6. Paulo Dybala
If Spurs really want to show ambition, Paulo Dybala could be a potentially power-shifting move that forces the Premier League’s title-chasers to truly sit up and take notice. A free transfer this summer after confirming his Juventus departure, there is going to be an epic tug-of-war for the Argentine’s services.
The north Londoners attempted to lure Dybala to the capital in 2019, but Juve pulled the plug after deciding they didn’t want to sell him. Fast forward three years, and interest has renewed in the 28-year-old. Spurs’ director of football, Fabio Paratici, spent over a decade working for Juve, so he could have some sway here.
Dybala would be another like Jesus who offers Conte plenty of attacking versatility, be it in a 3-5-2 alongside Kane, similar to the Lautaro Martinez-Romelu Lukaku partnership at Inter, or as an inside forward on the wing. Dybala’s signature also comes with a level of prestige, showing Tottenham’s reputational pulling-power in luring a player of his status to the club, and you can get odds of 14/1 on him joining.