Tottenham's U-Turn: How Daniel Levy Is Giving Antonio Conte Exactly What He Needs

Recognising the importance of a world class coach, Spurs are changing the way they approach transfers
15:00, 19 Jun 2022

Towards the end of last season, the future of Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte was an almost-daily talking point. With Paris Saint-Germain and their bottomless pit of riches circling, the Italian coach was expected to jump ship. A title winner in Italy and England, it was expected Conte would opt for a club chasing titles rather than top-four. This feeling prevailed particularly due to the fact Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is notoriously cautious in the transfer market. 

But Conte remained, and led his side to their first Champions League qualification in three seasons. And now there is clear evidence of Conte’s standards being met at the recruitment level, as Spurs have been lightning quick out of the box to start their summer business.

Brighton and Hove Albion’s marauding midfielder Yves Bissouma has agreed terms on a £25 million switch already, bolstering an area that was high on the manager’s priorities. Conte had previously wondered aloud why the likes of Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele had been signed. It is clear the former Juventus boss has a clear idea on the sort of player he wants in the middle of the park, and he now has his man.

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The swift, clinical manner of the deal is atypical to the way Tottenham have operated in the past. Levy is notorious as a tricky negotiator, often pushing transfers past the point of no return with his detail-oriented approach and ruthless refusal to compromise. But, perhaps sensing Conte’s continued involvement hinges on recruitment, he has conducted this move in a timely fashion. 

Bissouma is not the only deal to have been rubber-stamped in the opening stages of the transfer window. The free transfer capture of former England goalkeeper Fraser Forster from Southampton could be dismissed as a relatively straightforward deal to do. The player is 34 and seems happy to settle for a role as understudy to Hugo Lloris.

But the capture of Ivan Perisic on a free transfer from Conte’s former club Inter Milan is instructive. The signing demonstrates the changes Levy seems willing to make for Conte. The player is 33 years old, making him the oldest outfield signing the club have made in well over a decade. He is the finished article, rather than an investment made with resale value in mind. Perisic is also a favourite of Conte, having won the Serie A title under him at Inter. His signing hints that the team will be built in the manager’s image going forward. The fact the deal was done quickly and with minimal fuss, considering the player would have attracted plenty of suitors considering his free agent status, is indicative of how Spurs are approaching this window.

The spending appears to be far from done too. Spurs old boy Christian Eriksen is reportedly being pursued. Another free transfer signing who lifted the Scudetto alongside Conte at Inter, Eriksen is also 30. Once again Spurs are moving quickly to sign up a player whose abilities are well-known in order to make the most of this season, rather than future profit margins. 

The spending looks set to continue. While a bumper bid for Lautaro Martinez looks unlikely to succeed, it shows where Spurs now see themselves. A move for Everton’s Richarlison looks more likely to bear fruit, and he would be an attacking asset they sorely need to augment Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane. There are also links to Ajax’s Antony, who is also thought to be a target for Manchester United. The fact that Spurs are not only battling it out with their historically-more successful rivals for top talent, but actually getting their moves done quicker, is a striking about-face.

Spurs obviously feel they have got their man in Antonio Conte. Levy already tried the serial winner route with Jose Mourinho, but the great man proved to be past his peak. Conte however, seems to be living through his. If the brilliant surge into the top four that ended last season is anything to go on, Conte can do great things with this Spurs team. Perhaps, with all due respect to Mauricio Pochettino, unprecedented things. Daniel Levy is certainly equipping him for exactly that.

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