Spurs are specialists in failure but Antonio Conte's reputation as 'The Messi of managers' has been tarnished by his explosive exit

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Antonio Conte Tottenham 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The Italian has long been regarded as one of the best coaches in the world but the manner of his sacking at Spurs does not reflect well on him.

Antonio Conte has been sacked as Tottenham manager – and nobody is the least bit surprised. To say it had been coming would be a massive understatement.

Conte's tenure effectively ended after an extraordinary four-minute tirade in the press room at St Mary's, during which he slated not only his players but also his employer.

By blaming everyone bar himself for the club's culture of failure, the Italian effectively asked to be sacked. His request was belatedly granted on Sunday night. The only surprise is that the decision was not made sooner.

Conte's departure has once again sparked a debate in north London and beyond over Daniel Levy's running of the club, and rightly so.

As Conte quite correctly pointed out, the one common denominator in Tottenham's trophy-less era is the chairman.

The outgoing coach is not the only person who believes that nothing will change while Levy remains at the helm.

However, while Spurs are rightly regarded as specialists in failure, it has to be said that this whole affair has cast Conte in an incredibly poor light.

  1. What was Conte thinking?!

    He has made one poor decision after another. His first was arguably accepting the job in the first place.

    Conte insisted when he took over in November that he was looking forward to the challenge but he was questioning Spurs' strategy in the transfer market inside three months.

    Levy is, of course, notoriously parsimonious but that's why it was so shocking to see Conte upset. What exactly was he expecting?

    Did he really believe that Tottenham were suddenly going to start signing proven world-class talents for colossal sums? If he did, that doesn't reflect well on him. Splashing the cash has never been Levy's MO.

    It also has to be pointed out that Spurs did spend a significant amount of money last summer, most of which went on Richarlison, a player with whom Conte fell out spectacularly.

    In defending himself, the former Juventus and Inter boss argued that he has a proven track record for improving players, but we saw little of that ability at Tottenham.

    Conte did well to get his team into the top four at the end of his first season but there can be no denying that the team has gone backwards since then.

    And that was made even tougher to take by the incredible improvement at bitter rivals Arsenal, whom Spurs had pipped to a Champions League spot last May.

    A lot of Conte's explanations for Tottenham's struggles this season were undermined by the fantastic work being done by Mikel Arteta on a similarly restrictive budget at the Emirates Stadium.

  2. Physical and emotional struggles

    There should, of course, be a huge amount of sympathy for what Conte has gone through in recent months. He hasn't just been struggling physically after an emergency operation to remove his gallbladder, he was also left emotionally devastated by the loss of three of his closest friends in football to illness.

    Any person would have found it difficult to deal with work in such trying circumstances.

    But as anyone connected with the club will tell you, the issues between Conte and Levy are deep-rooted and go much further back.

    The tension began during that first January transfer window and their relationship broke down before that withering appraisal of Tottenham at Southampton.

    Indeed, the way in which the news of Conte's departure was confirmed spoke volumes.

    "We achieved Champions League qualification in Antonio’s first season at the club," the statement read. "We thank Antonio for his contribution and wish him well for the future."

    That was it – just 25 words on the outgoing manager. Contrast this with the exit of Jose Mourinho, who failed in very similar circumstances to Conte: Levy went out of his way to praise the Portuguese.

    "Jose is a true professional and showed enormous resilience during the pandemic," he said. "On a personal level, I have enjoyed working with him and regret that things have not worked out as we both envisaged. He will always be welcome here."

    One suspects the red carpet won't be rolled out for Conte whenever he returns to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

  3. Where next for Conte?

    Where next for Conte?

    And the big question now is: where next for Conte? It's clear that he has long wanted to return to Italy to be closer to his family, which is understandable in the circumstances, and he has a good chance of being offered a job by a Serie A side, if not immediately then at the end of the season.

    However, the likes of AC Milan, Roma and even former clubs Inter and Juventus will be wary of hiring a man whose reputation for publicly slamming his employers has only worsened.

    Conte has long been considered a contrary and combustible character but his fiery personality has been viewed as ideal by presidents and chairman looking to shake things up at under-performing clubs.

    We're talking about a coach who took over a Juventus side coming off back-to-back seventh placed finishes in Serie A and turned them into champions in less than a year.

    He had a similarly transformative effect on Inter, whom he led to to the Scudetto in his second season at San Siro, prompting defender Alessandro Bastoni to label Conte "the Messi of managers".

    However, his time at Tottenham has undoubtedly blotted Conte's copybook, as underlined by the fact that many fans are glad to see the back of him.

    They may have agreed with many of the things he said about Levy but did not like his brand of football or his habit of pointing the finger of blame at everyone but himself.

    When Sergio Ramos quite publicly warned Real Madrid against hiring Conte some years ago, it said more about the unhealthy level of player power at the Santiago Bernabeu than anything else.

    However, after this explosive end to his Spurs reign, Conte might well be viewed as more trouble than he's worth by many other players and presidents.

    And he only has himself to blame for that, whether he is willing to admit it or not.