Antonio Conte has shot down claims that he needs big spending at his clubs to have success, opened up on his relationship with Fabio Paratici and believes he will leave Tottenham one day in a better shape.
The Italian has only overseen four matches so far for the north London club, games which have shown him the good, bad and the ugly side of Spurs, with victories over Leeds and Vitesse, a draw at Everton and an embarrassing defeat in Slovenia to NS Mura on Thursday night.
Ahead of the game against Leeds, Conte undertook a wide-ranging interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport during the international break which was released this weekend and provided a real insight into what Tottenham can expect from him and what he expects to bring.
The 52-year-old, who was living at the Lodge – the hotel at Spurs’ Hotspur Way training complex – at the time of the interview although football.london understands he has recently moved to central London, detailed his daily routine.
It sees him wake up early in the morning, beginning work before nine with meetings, tactical analysis, study of videos and training in the morning before another another training session, gym work, more meetings and match preparation before he finishes around 9pm.
“I’ve never seen a training centre like this,” he said. “You look around you and it never ends. Many do not understand how many points it can give to work in such a structure.
“The matches they are played on Sunday but they are won during the week and the stadium, which cost more than a billion, is something even more incredible, with the fans giving you wings.
“Tottenham has world class club structures. The team must be up to it. Today there is a gap between investments made by the company and sporting results. We have to fill it.”
When asked what convinced him to join Spurs, he explained: “President [Daniel] Levy has shown that he wanted me at all costs. In his words and in the investments made, I perceived a vision: the desire to excel.
“I said to myself ‘if we combine this ability off the pitch with what I can give on the pitch, we can really set up a serious and profound job’. Grow and compete with other big English clubs.
“The team is young and has a lot of room for improvement, but the competition is fierce with the four giants Chelsea, City, Liverpool, United, and then Arsenal, West Ham, Everton.”
There has always been a sense that Conte’s title-winning club spend heavily to realise his ambitions and it’s a notion that makes him chuckle.
“It makes me laugh. Let me tell you that in my career in the end I have always made money, not spent,” he said.
“I have often worked with young people to train, depreciated athletes or to be rebuilt, players who had never won until then. All players who have re-evaluated, thanks to my work. In my career I have only asked for one player who has been paid a lot (Romelu Lukaku).
“I asked for it based on the objectives that had been presented to me. The Inter executives came to my house to tell me that they wanted to overthrow Juve’s hegemony and bring Inter to the top of the world, taking advantage of great financial resources.
“I asked for Lukaku considering it essential, but also look at what has been resold – almost double. Like Hakimi, but I could mention the enhancement of Barella, Bastoni, Lautaro, who did not play before my arrival. At Juve I had the pleasure of working with Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini: phenomena, but when I still hadn’t won anything.”
He added: “I mean that where I go I always build something important and when I leave I leave a groove, a culture of work, an organization and a winning mentality.
“I totally put my heart and soul into the club I work for. Faithful to that All Blacks motto: “Leave the shirt better than how you found it”. I have always left houses with well-built foundations where others, after me, have had the opportunity to continue to win, some more, some less. It is not presumption, they are facts.”
The challenge at Tottenham could be one of the biggest he has faced with the aim to break back into the top four all the more difficult as teams build around a Spurs side that has declined in recent years.
“Challenges have never scared me, it’s enough for me to have only a one per cent chance of winning them to start my battle,” he said.
“I have never taken teams that had won the year before, but always reconstruction paths. Juve came from an eighth place, Chelsea from a tenth, Inter from a quarter. I know it will take a little patience this time. In Milan I left a finished job. Here I have to start over and enter the current season is never easy.
“Great teams build over time. Klopp did not enter the Champions League in the early years in Liverpool, but they gave him confidence and year after year he shaped the team that then won it.
“Guardiola didn’t win the first year either. We are starting from a-b-c, but on the way we plan to accelerate with the letters of the alphabet. The path is bumpy but it doesn’t scare me, it excites me.”
Alongside him as he rebuilds Tottenham, Conte has the club’s managing director of football Fabio Paratici. The two worked together for years at Juventus and the new Spurs boss believes they know exactly what each other requires.
“The relationship with Fabio is solid, there is great mutual esteem, we have worked together, he knows me,” he said. “We speak the same language and I am not referring only to Italian.”
Conte enjoys developing players and his attackers often score plenty of goals. Arriving at a club with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min among his ranks has provided him with two huge offensive weapons as part of his project and he’s already seen what they can do for him.
“I always say that an important player must have three qualities: to be strong, resistant and fast. Son has them all. Kane is an absolute value player. Not only of great class but also of great football intelligence,” said the Italian.
“Sacchi used to say that with players you either go by persuasion or you go by percussion. To some you have to repeat things a thousand times.
“With Kane, only one is enough, he stores it and immediately puts it into practice. Technically he is very strong, he manages to move in half a meter with the ball between his feet and the man on him, already knowing where the goalkeeper is and if he has to kick on the first or second post. He sees the opening as few do.”
Football.london has a new podcast! We’ve brought together your two favourite Tottenham reporters in Alasdair Gold and Rob Guest to keep you up to date with everything happening at Hotspur Way.
From the latest transfer news to those glorious wins in north London and beyond! There might even be a laugh or two too.
Subscribe, download and listen to all of the episodes so far and those to come at: Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spreaker, Spotify, Acast or another provider.
On Kane he added: “He wants to win with this shirt, my aim is to help him make his dream come true, but in general, the best thing for a coach is to be told at the end of the season: ‘thanks Mister I have improved with you’.
“Kane is already a champion but I would like to be able to add one, two or three percent more to what he has.”
Conte believes there is plenty of potential within the young team he has found at Tottenham even if the fast and physical English game means he has to adapt back to what he knew at Chelsea.
“I want to improve them all [at Spurs]. They are young, they have margins, they follow me and they want to learn,” he said.
“In the Premier League there is much less tactics, you go in gusts, here the ball flies, thrown from right to left, you hear the hiss in the air.
“In Italy we are masters of tactics, the teams are organized, but more blocked, more serious. The fewer spaces available also reduce intensity and speed. In the Premier League, we play more openly. This makes the matches more spectacular. And from 65 minutes onwards, when a little tiredness emerges, anything can happen.
“I believe that it is necessary to absorb the mentality and the type of football of a country if you do not want to become a foreign body, but to win tactics and strategy remain fundamental.”
The new Spurs head coach is constantly trying to improve himself and adapt and he will need to do so particularly with his tough challenge ahead in north London.
“We never stop growing, studying, updating, finding new solutions,” he explained. “I study football every day. It is my life, my passion, my work, my magnificent obsession.
“To stay on top, you never have to sit down. Out of respect for yourself and for those who look for you and pay you.”
On the challenge ahead at Tottenham, he went on: “You can see that I am made for more difficult choices that require more effort.
“Every now and then I tell myself: it would be nice to drive a car that starts from pole position, but in the end, that’s okay with me. I evaluated Tottenham’s choice and found all the answers I was looking for.
“I want to enjoy my work, the journey more. Sometimes the obligation to achieve the result, to be forced to win because your name is Conte, because you earn a lot, has also infected the results achieved.
“This time I would like to enjoy this construction phase that awaits me. I start from behind, but I have the experience and maturity to face this difficult challenge and yes winning will be more beautiful.”