Tottenham: Why Levy must buck transfer trend with bold Conte rebuild


he away dressing room at Carrow Road was bouncing as Tottenham celebrated a return to the Champions League by blaring out music and posing for selfies, but when Hugo Lloris and Eric Dier stepped out to speak to the media, they had a serious message.

The pair, who are among the squad’s leaders along with Harry Kane, both urged the board to seize the moment and back Antonio Conte, reflecting a view from within the club that Spurs have reached a crucial juncture and must not waste this opportunity.

Daniel Levy‘s 21 years as chairman can be broadly represented as an impressive upward curve but with key opportunities missed along the way.

Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure and particularly the summer of 2018, when Spurs became the first Premier League club since the introduction of transfer windows not to make a signing, is the clearest example of their squandering a position of strength.

For the majority of Pochettino’s five-and-a-half year reign, however, Levy and the club were focussed on the stadium build, consuming precious time and resources.

Now, by contrast, there are no excuses for the club not to back Conte. Everything is in place. Spurs have the infrastructure to rival any club in the world, an elite coach, two of the finest players on the planet at the peak of their powers and the makings of a good squad around them.

If they are to push on next season and keep Conte and Kane happy, Spurs must build on these foundations with a bold and intelligent summer rebuild.

When Conte meets with Levy and managing director Fabio Paratici this week, he is set to demand assurances that the club will invest significantly in quality and quantity over the summer, and that he will lead the overhaul of the squad.

Conte wants Spurs to show ambition by building a squad to compete with Manchester City and Liverpool and challenge for silverware, and is conscious that their form during the run-in will be completely unsustainable with Champions League football and the introduction of five substitutes from next season.

Levy has previously been reluctant to hand total control to his coaches but Conte is notoriously uncompromising and will settle for nothing less than the club’s full and unequivocal support. He has already hinted at walking away and has history of following through on his threats if he feels he is not being 100 per cent supported.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy must back manager Antonio Conte in the transfer market

/ PA

Spurs are not owned by an oligarch or state and Levy runs the club within its means, but with the windfall from the Champions League, revenue from player sales and the stadium beginning to pay its way, Spurs should finally be in a position to throw some weight behind a manager.

Given the importance Conte places on pre-season, he wants the majority of deals done before Spurs depart for South Korea at the start of July, so Levy’s preferred tactic of doing business in the final weeks of the window is unlikely to fly. The time is now.

There may be tension between Conte’s desire for proven quality to immediately improve his team and the club’s policy of buying young players with sell-on value, but January signings Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur suggest the two are not mutually exclusive.

Kulusevski, 22, scored twice in yesterday’s 5-0 win over Norwich to finish with five goals and eight assists in 14 League starts, while Bentancur, 24, set up their first-half goals, scored by the Swede and Kane. Spurs would not be in the same position without them and more signings of a similar ilk over the summer would be transformative.

Spurs’ progress will count for little if its architect, Antonio Conte, feels the club cannot match his ambition

Son completed the rout with his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season, including a brilliant curling strike, to win a first Golden Boot, shared with Mohamed Salah. The Korean will be 30 in July, two weeks before Kane turns 29. They are both sensational players in their prime, offering another reason for the club not to squander their talent and act now.

All the noises from within suggest Spurs are willing to do so, with Levy preparing to hand Conte significant funds and make concessions for his demands to sign experience. In refusing to sell Kane last summer and appointing a short-termist coach, the chairman indicated that he is not interested in another four-or five-year cycle and wants success now.

A return to the Champions League has justified Levy’s approach but Spurs’ progress will count for little if its architect, Conte, feels the club cannot match his ambition at this week’s summit.

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