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While a soccer manager can seem relatively powerless during the match — beyond three substitution windows, how many can you actually influence? — they play a key role in shaping the club’s identity. Take Antonio Conte as a perfect example of that. No matter where the Italian goes, his teams will play with three center backs, sit in a deep defensive block, and exploit counterattacks and transitions. And even though things haven’t fully clicked during the 2022-23 campaign, he has brought those principles to Tottenham Hotspur.

The manager, however, might not be seen on Spurs’ sideline for the near future. What’s behind Conte’s absence?

Antonio Conte could be absent from the Tottenham touchline due to a sudden surgery

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When you think of an injury report, players are usually the ones missing time. In Tottenham’s case, the manager could be sidelined for a bit.

“Antonio Conte recently became unwell with severe abdominal pain,” Spurs explained in a February 1 tweet. “Following a diagnosis of cholecystitis, he will be undergoing surgery to remove his gallbladder today and will return following a period of recuperation. Everyone at the Club wishes him well.”

Christian Stellini, the Italian’s assistant, took charge of training and handled media duties ahead of the club’s February 5 date with Manchester City. When speaking to the press, he provided a bit more clarity about his boss’ situation.

“We are upset,” he explained, according to The Guardian. “It was Antonio who called me and explained the situation. Last week he had a problem that we thought was flu, not a problem like this. When he discovered this, it was a surprise, and he was so sad, but we have to keep going and work. We had time to speak to Antonio before the surgery about the way to prepare for the [Manchester City] game. Then we lost him for 12 hours, the time for him to have the surgery. The surgery was not difficult, and it’s important he recovers well – this is the most important thing.”

While it’s safe to assume that Conte will still play a role — The Guardian piece specified that he’d be involved with picking the team, and it’s safe to assume he’ll manage to convey his thoughts to the staff throughout the match — it’s unclear when he’ll return to the touchline. Writing in The Independent, Harry Latham-Coyle, citing the NHS, noted that most people are “able to return to most normal activities within two weeks.”

Is it theoretically possible that the manager can return to the pitch, assuming he’s able to sit still and remain calm for 90 minutes? Yes, but it’s also possible that given the overlooked physical demands of the job, like leading training and jumping out of your seat in agony or elation, might be a bridge too far for Conte at the moment.

Whether he’s physically present or not, though, the way Tottenham play won’t change a bit.