Inside Antonio Conte's Tottenham sacking: Transfer complaints, off-field tragedy and family ties in Italy led to Southampton EXPLOSION

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The fiery Italian's rollercoaster 17-month reign in north London is over - and Spurs are no better off than when he first arrived.

Antonio Conte's second spell in English football is over, and it ended in much the same way as his tenure at Chelsea did in 2018, with a clear division between him and the men running the club from the boardroom.

The difference is, the Blues won a Premier League title and FA Cup under Conte, while Tottenham extended their long-running trophy drought to 15 years.

Conte has always been known as a serial winner, but he never came close to delivering silverware in north London, despite any preconceived notions he may have had over being the man to change the mentality of a club that has become so accustomed to failure.

Spurs managed to regain a place in the Premier League's top four in Conte's first season at the helm, but it never felt like the first step in a long-term project. The Italian tactician's contract was due to expire this summer, and he spent most of his final months at the club dodging questions over his future.

Conte was clearly reluctant to commit himself to a longer stay, and the uncertainty surrounding his position had a negative impact on the team, who have spectacularly underperformed in 2022-23 - even by the standards of a modern-day Tottenham side.

So, what exactly led to Conte's inevitable exit? GOAL looks at the key reasons behind his sacking below...

  1. Summer recruitment gripes

    Summer recruitment gripes

    The early warning signs were there after the summer transfer window.

    Conte was backed with six signings, including Richarlison from Everton and Yves Bissouma from Brighton for a combined outlay of £85 million ($104m).

    Djed Spence was also brought in from Middlesbrough after his outstanding season on loan at Nottingham Forest, but Conte made it clear straight away that he wasn't one of his targets.

    "Spence is an investment of the club. The club wanted to do it," he said last July. "I said ‘OK, this player is young but he showed he can become a good, important player for us.' The club decided to buy him."

    Former Inter winger Ivan Perisic and backup England goalkeeper Fraser Forster also arrived the club, but Conte dismissed their significance due to their free transfer status - according to the Daily Mail.

    He did the same with Barcelona loanee Clement Lenglet, who emerged on Spurs' radar after Inter's Alessandro Bastoni was dismissed as an option due to his reported £50m ($61m) price tag.

    Tottenham went on to sign Arnaut Danjuma on loan from Villarreal in January, and two months later, Conte repeated his stance on Spence when explaining the Netherlands winger's lack of regular minutes.

    "Yeah about Arnaut, for sure I am sorry," he said. "I am sorry for him because he arrived in the transfer market in January and the club wanted to sign this player."

    It was even reported that Conte considered Richarlison and Bissouma to be inferior signings compared to Arsenal's capture of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City - which suggests that he was simply not on the same page as his former Juventus associate Fabio Paratici and the rest of Spurs' decision-makers.

  2. Toxic dressing room atmosphere

    Toxic dressing room atmosphere

    According to The Athletic, Conte also lost the dressing room before his exit.

    His preferred training style and rigid tactical set-up alienated a number of players, with some labelling the atmosphere "toxic" and "rotten".

    It has even been suggested that the general mood in the camp was lower than during the final stages of Jose Mourinho's reign at Spurs - which is quite the claim considering the Portuguese was accused of "sucking the culture" out of the club.

    The most public example of Conte's fractious relationship with his players came when Richarlison criticised his manager for starting him on the bench in Spurs' crucial second-leg clash with Milan in the Champions League round of 16.

    After being held to a goalless draw at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium that ensured Milan progressed to the last eight with a 1-0 aggregate victory, Richarlison told TNT Sports: "Let's see what he (Conte) will say tomorrow, but there are no fools here either, I'm a professional, I work every day and I want to play. There are minutes left, time left. This season, excuse the word, it's been sh*t, because I don't have minutes."

    Conte later played down the Brazilian's comments, but the damage was done. He was no longer in control of the group and the writing was on the wall.

  3. Devastating personal losses

    Devastating personal losses

    Conte also had to continue working while grieving the deaths of three of his closest friends.

    Spurs' fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone passed away in October, and former Lazio defender Sinisa Mihajlovic died in December.

    Conte was then rocked by the loss of his former Juventus and Italy team-mate Gianluca Vialli the following month.

    The Tottenham boss passed press conference duties onto Cristian Stellini after an FA Cup third-round tie against Portsmouth as he mourned Vialli's death, and took to social media to pay tribute to the football icon.

    "I told you and wrote that you have always been an inspiration to me as my Captain and for how you were proving to be Strong, Proud and Brave, fighting like a lion against this disease," Conte wrote. "Always in my heart, my friend. Ciao, Gianluca."

    The 53-year-old later admitted that the off-field tragedies had made him think long and hard about his own career and life.

    "This season is a difficult season for me as a personal aspect," he said before Tottenham's 4-2 loss against Manchester City on January 19. "For sure, this season is making me to have an important reflection on my future."

  4. The pull of life in Italy

    The pull of life in Italy

    Conte didn't get much time to process the death of Vialli before suffering a serious health scare of his own.

    After complaining of severe abdominal pain, the Spurs coach was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder at the start of February.

    Stellini deputised for Conte as Spurs exacted revenge over City with a 1-0 home win, but he rushed back to return to the touchline for a subsequent 4-1 loss to Leicester City and the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 encounter with Milan.

    Following Tottenham's 1-0 loss at San Siro, Conte stayed in Italy to continue his recovery after a post-operation check, which allowed him to spend quality time with his family.

    His wife and daughter still live in their family home in Turin and they had to spend long periods apart due to his job at Spurs. The 53-year-old also stated after Vialli's passing: "Many times we think and we give a lot of importance to our work and we forget the family. We forget that we need to have more time for us."

    Conte also misses football in his homeland, having previously enjoyed great success at Inter and Juventus.

    "You never forget your first love and Italy will always be first," he said last month amid speculation over a possible return to Serie A.

  5. Levy's reaction to Southampton meltdown
    Getty Images

    Levy's reaction to Southampton meltdown

    It all led to one of the most shocking managerial rants in recent memory.

    After seeing his side blow a two-goal lead away at Southampton when in sight of a victory that would have taken them up to third in the Premier League table, Conte exploded.

    “They don’t play for something important, yeah. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress," the Spurs boss ranted in a post-match press conference.

    “It is easy in this way. Tottenham’s story is this, 20 years there is the owner and they never won something but why? They can change the manager, a lot of managers, but the situation cannot change. Believe me.”

    According to The Telegraph, Conte's outburst prompted Levy to consider sacking him during the international break.

    Conte spoke directly to the Spurs owner to clarify that his comments were not aimed at him, but Levy was more concerned over whether he could still lead after openly questioning the players' commitment.

    After seeking advice from his "closest confidants", Levy pulled the trigger on March 26, with Stellini asked to fill Conte's boots in the dugout once again until the end of the season and a permanent successor set to be named in the summer.

    Spurs released a statement thanking Conte for his service, but Levy only had a message for supporters as the team looks ahead to a crucial run of fixtures in their bid to salvage Champions League qualification after a miserable campaign.

    "We have 10 Premier League games remaining and we have a fight on our hands for a Champions League place. We all need to pull together," he said. "Everyone has to step up to ensure the highest possible finish for our club and amazing, loyal supporters."

    There is no doubt that the final decision was in the best interests of all parties concerned.