Antonio Conte could be on the move again — perhaps back to the Premier League — over a brewing transfer dispute with Inter Milan’s owners.
Having just won Inter Milan the Serie A title and ended Juventus’ nine-year reign as champions in only his second season in charge, one might think Conte not only have the full support of the club’s owners to retain his existing squad, but perhaps even the financial backing to add to it as the Nerazzurri eye a deep run in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Alas, chairman Steven Zhang has made clear his desire to cut the club’s wage bill by “15 to 20 percent” and sell one or two of Conte’s “untouchable” players worth up to $100 million this summer, according to our partners at Sky Sports. The list of players in question includes, but is not limited to, strikers Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, and center back Milan Skriniar — three players capable of walking into the starting lineup of virtually every club in Europe.
It is that point which has Conte at odds with Zhang: Conte can’t fathom mounting a Serie A title defense without his world-class stars, knowing full well Juventus will reload in the summer transfer window, therefore they must be retained; Zhang knows that they might never be worth more in the transfer market than they are right, therefore the club must cash in.
If Conte walks, where might he go? Tottenham?
As of this moment, the only Premier League managerial vacancy is at Tottenham following the departure of Jose Mourinho and the interim installment of Ryan Mason in April. A move back to the Premier League, where Conte won the title in 2017 and the FA Cup in 2018, is an obvious option, but would Tottenham be the right club?
Chairman Daniel Levy would almost certainly impose similar restrictions regarding the wage bill, and Tottenham has long been a club willing to sell its best players at the peak of their value. Throw in the fact that Harry Kane might be the latest mega-departure, and Tottenham is much more of a project job than an instant contender. Sure, selling Kane will likely bring roughly $150 million into the club, but 1) how much will the next manager be allowed to spend, and 2) how much say will he have over who is signed?
If the goal for Conte is more control and certainty in his position, Tottenham won’t be ticking many boxes for him. Plus, Levy recently stated that he is looking to take Tottenham back to its “DNA” and appoint a manager whose team will play a “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining” style. In Conte’s three seasons at Chelsea, the Blues reached the 65-goal mark just once (2016-17, his first season in charge, when they scored 85 and won the Premier League title).
Big name? Sure. Right fit? Not so much.
Perhaps Tottenham could still play a part in Conte landing his next job, as Mauricio Pochettino has been linked with a return to north London, thus opening the hot seat at Paris Saint-Germain, where wage bills and exorbitant transfer fees are of little worry to anyone.