Something, or someone, has changed down at Tottenham Hotspur.
Once, their cack-handed attempts at buying players provided regular ammunition to chuckle at their ineptitude in the transfer market.
Vlad Chiriches, Paulinho and Roberto Soldado. The three pups sold to Spurs as they contrived to blow an entire £85 million fortune generated from the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. The summer of 2013 will forever be burned into the memory as the time Tottenham went for it and missed by a country mile under Andre Villas-Boas. He was gone by the following December and while Christian Eriksen emerged as a star he was very much the exception to the rule then that more is best.
- Betfred's Premier League 2022/23 Outrights*
Current manager Antonio Conte’s drag net approach to scooping up new players this year is similar in its numerical volume but could not be more different in its approach. Promising Middlesbrough right-back Djed Spence is about to join five other astute signings in just the past two months. And suddenly peace and harmony have broken out at White Hart Lane.
It’s not rocket science, but Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy appears to be the first chairman to have cracked it with Conte. Whether it is slipping something into the manager’s tea at the training ground or simply opening up his bank account to feed the beast, Spurs is a happy ship.
That is no mean feat when dealing with a firecracker of a man in combative Conte. After winning the Premier League title in his first season in charge at Chelsea in 2016-17, the simmering Italian told people at Stamford Bridge ‘now you will see the real Antonio, I will fight everyone.’ He was true to his word and was sacked the following year, via a bitter employment tribunal and shoehorning an extra £9m out of Roman Abramovich for good measure.
Conte used to thrive on fighting. Even when he first turned up in north London he threatened to walk within weeks, claiming he could not do his job without significant funding.
With Levy portrayed as someone who sleeps with his wallet under his pillow it was only going to go one way. Everyone stood back and waited for the explosion. But sometimes the most unlikely couples hit it off and love has blossomed between two people from polar opposites of the personality spectrum. The results are seriously impressive. Everywhere you look, Tottenham are getting stronger.
From back to front with the vast experience of keeper Fraser Forster and Croatia wing-back Ivan Perisic. The hair-trigger temper of Richarlison up front - if that can be controlled he will ignite Spurs. The towering presence of Yves Bissouma with bags of Premier League games under his belt. France centre-back Clement Lenglet alongside the already formidable Christian Romero is a mouthwatering proposition. Conte is going at the transfer market in the same way as AVB but with more thought, more consideration and more chance of success.
Not one of the eight players who arrived in the summer of 2013 had played in England before. Conte is sourcing his new blood from Southampton, Brighton, Boro. And he is adding to the mix with players from top Continental teams - Perisic is a Champions League winner.
Tottenham’s added bonus is that they already have a nucleus of top class, proven talent up front. Strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are a lethal combination.
Conte’s masterplan is all designed to work around his main forward Kane, of course. Half the battle with this flurry of transfers is to keep the England captain happy and put an end to the annual bout of itchy feet as he has watched his career stagnate in recent seasons.
At 28 and with a failed move to Manchester City last year behind him, it is no coincidence that Conte’s mad dash around the football supermarkets of Europe has at last dampened down the consistent speculation that Kane wants out.
While it is going to cost Levy a few quid to maintain a settled ship, Spurs’ chairman may have finally twigged that it would be worth it.
Tottenham have spent plenty of money over the years but they haven’t spent it well.
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