Antonio Conte: “Four players left in January – four important players for Tottenham. Two have arrived, so even numerically, instead of reinforcing yourself you may have, on paper, weakened”; watch Man City vs Spurs live on Sky Sports from 5pm on Saturday; kick off at 5:30pm
Thursday 17 February 2022 11:58, UK
Antonio Conte says it was a difficult January transfer window for Tottenham but understands the club’s priority is to find and develop young players.
After missing out on deals for Adama Traore and Luis Diaz, Spurs only brought in Juventus pair Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur on Deadline Day.
On the same day, Conte saw the club’s two most expensive players – Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso – leave on loan, with Dele Alli joining Everton for £40m and Bryan Gil going to Valencia less than six months after his £25m arrival from Sevilla.
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However, the Spurs head coach says he understands the club’s vision is to develop young players rather than buy proven experience.
In an interview with Sky Italy, Conte said: “Four players left in January – four important players for Tottenham. Two have arrived, so even numerically, instead of reinforcing yourself you may have, on paper, weakened.
“Then precise choices were made for many reasons, but I certainly never expected that in January four players who I still considered important would change their shirts for a thousand reasons. This shows the difficulty.”
Conte has been backed with ready-made signings at Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan but says he now knows that will not be the case at Spurs.
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“It is inevitable that in January it is very difficult to get two players like Bentancur and Kulusevski to sign who, I repeat, are the ideal prospects for Tottenham,” he said.
“Tottenham is looking for young players, players to be developed, not ready players. The vision, the philosophy of the club is this.
“It is inevitable that if you want to grow faster and if you want to be competitive more quickly you need players with a lot of experience, because they also lead to an increase in experience in your team.
“But then again, the vision of the club I realised is this and will continue to be this. For this reason it will take a lot of patience and I continue to explain it to the whole environment and to the fans.”
Conte’s Spurs tenure began with a run of just one defeat in 11 matches, but they have since lost five of their last eight, while the recent defeats to Southampton and Wolves came partly as a result of defensive errors by the north Londoners.
The head coach suggested mistakes are being made due to a lack of confidence, and compared the situation with his arrival in 2019 at Inter Milan, who had not won a trophy for nearly a decade at the time.
“It is always difficult to make comparisons, but surely when you take the job in a team that hasn’t won for a long time it is inevitable that you will lack confidence,” said Conte.
“The confidence is down and many times, at the first obstacle, you throw yourself down and many times the negativity increases even more. Sometimes you grant goals that you struggle to accept.
“This has been happening to us in the last period. This is part of a process of a team that has to grow a lot to try to be competitive.
“Right now we are one of the many teams that are in the middle. They need to work a lot and this does not scare me at all.
“It is inevitable that certainly the situation compared to the past for me is very different in terms of perspectives, ambitions, in terms of fighting to win. I realised that it’s a totally different situation anyway.”
Sky Sports’ Joe Shread
Antonio Conte’s suggestion that Tottenham actually weakened their squad last month through their transfer dealings may come as a surprise, given they landed the exciting Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur from Italian giants Juventus, while the four first-team players who left the club were far from regular starters under the head coach.
But when you look at Conte’s history, it becomes clear he is not afraid to speak out against his club on the subject of transfers, and that this is something that has caused friction between him and his paymasters in the past.
At Chelsea, Conte wanted to capitalise on their impressive Premier League title in his first season in charge by signing Romelu Lukaku, Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
But when the players that actually arrived were Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta, the Italian chose to make it very clear that he was not the one behind those signings, saying: “From the summer, the club decides every single player that comes here. For sure, I don’t have a big impact on the transfer market.”
Conte’s statement that Spurs need “players with a lot of experience” if they want to “grow faster” will also ring a bell for Chelsea supporters. The head coach’s final transfer window at Stamford Bridge in January 2018 turned into a month-long pursuit of a variety of veteran forwards in a bid to find an old head to provide reliable back-up for Morata.
In no particular order, Conte wanted Fernando Llorente, Edin Dzeko and Alexis Sanchez, before eventually ending up with Olivier Giroud. But despite eventually getting a striker to satisfy their coach’s demands, Chelsea became increasingly frustrated by Conte’s public grumblings and it came as no surprise that he was replaced at the end of the campaign following a season of discontent.
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