While the international break means that there isn’t currently any domestic soccer on the table, that doesn’t mean that the next week will be boring. Even if most of the matches don’t really matter, the break does provide the perfect opportunity for rumors to ramp up. With players (and, in some cases, managers) traveling and speaking to more localized reporters, some wacky quotes, storylines, and whispers will always crop up. Take Antonio Conte’s future at Tottenham as an example of that.
Although Spurs have gotten off to a strong start to the campaign, a rumor surfaced that the Italian manager is longing to return to Italy. That’s not exactly out of Conte’s character — he has high standards and doesn’t last in a job for long — but it does seem rather sudden.
With those conflicting elements at play, let’s take a deeper look at the rumor and assess how things currently stand. Could Conte actually cut bait and return to Italy? Or is this just the sort of storyline that inevitably appears during an international window?
The case for Antonio Conte leaving Tottenham
As I mentioned above, the biggest factor that would favor Conte leaving North London is that it would certainly be par for the course. The manager wants to win, feels confident about what he needs to reach his targets, and will leave a job if he feels like he isn’t receiving the support he needs. His resume speaks to that reality: The manager has led his teams to nine trophies, but he has taken charge of nine different clubs (leading one of those on two separate occasions) since 2006.
Digging deeper into the “winning” vein, it’s also possible that the Italian is grappling with the challenges of claiming silverware in England. While he found success with Chelsea from 2016 through 2018, Manchester City have since grown into a juggernaut. Liverpool, for all their recent struggles, have proven to be a world-class team in recent years; Arsenal are on the rise, and while Manchester United and Chelsea are in an era of transition, they still have plenty of cash to spend. Even beyond the so-called big clubs, the quality of the Premier League has increased. Facing a team like Crystal Palace or Brighton in the FA Cup won’t exactly be a free win.
While Juventus has slid down the pecking order a bit, could Conte see Serie A as the easier route to success? Perhaps, given how the Turin-based club has dominated during the 2010s.
Beyond that, some personal factors could be at play. The manager is, of course, Italian, and a move to Juventus would take him home. When Conte came to Spurs, he was living in a hotel with his family abroad; he even spoke about his daughter being a teenager and the challenges of pulling her away from school and friendships (h/t the Mirror.) While some time has passed since that report, Football London’s Alasdair Gold noted that Conte still travels home during international breaks to visit his family.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the rumor, at least the version spread on Twitter by Forza Juventus, was attributed to Fabiana Della Valle. She’s considered to be a reliable source for Juventus news, which does paint Conte’s reported interest as a bit more legitimate.
With that being said, though, there would still be some logistical challenges for Conte to return to Juventus
After considering those factors, it might seem like Conte leaving Spurs for Juventus is imminent. While there are some convincing factors, there are also some legitimate hurdles that would complicate things.
First, let’s return to the notion of winning. Last season, the Italian took charge of Spurs and led them into the Champions League. He strengthened the squad during the summer, and, after seven Premier League matches, Tottenham sits third in the table, one point off the pace. There have been hiccups, like a loss to Sporting Lisbon, but there’s no reason to think that Conte feels like he can’t win anything at White Hart Lane. That, ultimately, is what matters to him.
Then, on Spurs’ side of things, it’s unlikely that the club would let their current manager leave midseason without putting up a fight (and receiving some monetary compensation). Even if there’s room to debate the wisdom of each individual purchase, Tottenham did back Conte during the summer transfer window. Letting him go because things went south is one thing, but shelling out that sort of money to let him walk into another job would be a tougher pill to swallow.
“Conte has a contract until the end of this season, and both he and Spurs have the option to agree on another year,” Gold wrote in the aforementioned Football London mailbag. “Leaving midway through this season would prove very difficult unless Conte and Daniel Levy or Fabio Paratici have the mother of all fallings out, because otherwise Levy is not going to let him go without a huge compensation fee.”
Beyond that, the manager’s relationship with Juventus’ brass isn’t the greatest. Despite playing for and managing the famous club, Conte and owner Andrea Agnelli don’t exactly see eye-to-eye. Again, let Gold explain:
Conte fell out big time with Juve owner Andrea Agnelli back in 2014 when he left the club a day into pre-season. According to the Italian media, Juve director Pavel Nedved has been desperate to get Conte back in recent years, but Agnelli has not consented.
Even last year, there were suggestions of a spat between the two men when Inter played Juventus, with claims that Conte held his middle finger up at Allegri, who reportedly swore back at him.Alasdair Gold, Football London
Could that bad blood be put aside if there’s a chance to get the Italian club back on track? Maybe, but it’s not as simple as shaking hands and getting down to work.
Anytime Antonio Conte is at a club, it’s safe to assume a falling out isn’t that far away. With that being said, though, Spurs fans probably don’t have anything to worry about … at least not yet.