Antonio Conte refused to give any assurances over his future at Tottenham, saying he was only focused on the present and nothing later because ‘later might be too late’.
The manager, who only signed a 20-month contract when he took over from Nuno Espírito Santo in November, is keen to improve his squad during this month’s transfer window, having repeatedly described them as not being strong enough.
Conte has exerted not-so-subtle pressure on chairman Daniel Levy with a series of messages about what he feels he needs and the one he delivered on Friday addressed the apocalyptic fears of the club’s fans. They are terrified that Conte might resign if he is not backed by Levy with signatures.
There is no indication that Conte would be ready to leave in February if he didn’t get what he wanted – the summer window could be another story – although he remained in a defiant mood.
“Honestly, I like to live in the present and not think too much about the future,” said Conte, when asked if he could guarantee he would still be at the club after the January window and the one. that followed in the summer, No matter what happened. “It’s important to live in the present, to try to improve the situation… because the present is now, the future is later. And later might be too late for us. We need to be focused on the present. Then we’ll see.
Conte was pushed on the subject and he said he was enjoying his time at Spurs and had a “good relationship” with Levy and chief football officer Fabio Paratici. Conte added: “I want to work, I want to improve this team and, I repeat, we have to focus on the present because, of course, I want to improve, we want to improve.”
Conte tends to be more outspoken, more political, before and during a transfer window and there is no doubt that he maneuvers from a position of strength. He is a proven winner, who the Spurs backer consider themselves lucky to have, especially after Nuno’s failed tenure when Levy has very little bank credit with some of them. On the other hand, if history has shown us anything, it’s that Levy doesn’t like being armed.
Spurs recruitment has been disappointing since 2016-17 – the season when Conte first came to England to manage Chelsea – and, among their purchases which cost more than £10million, only Lucas Moura and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg have been successes, although hopes remain high for Cristian Romero.
It’s one of the main reasons why Conte has complained that the club have gone from contenders to what he calls an ‘intermediate’ level. He desperately wants them to get their next recruits, to see his own ambitions matched.
“Yes, of course,” Conte said. “I don’t lose my ambition and that must be very clear. I like to fight for something important. I don’t want to lose my will, my desire. Otherwise, I will go against myself. I have to be the same person every moment.
Conte recently cut an increasingly frustrated figure, despite his positive record in the league – five wins, three draws and no defeats. He lamented the lack of depth in the squad, the gap to top teams and, when asked if he realized the scale of the task at Spurs would be so great, he began to to laugh.
“I decided to accept this job because working in this environment, working in a modern club, is good for every coach,” Conte said. “As you know very well, when you are outside you can imagine the situation. Then, when you are inside the situation, you can understand all aspects very well.
It seems unlikely that when Conte was persuaded to take the role, he was made to expect a squad overhaul in January. He dodged a question about it, saying that because he hadn’t yet experienced a transfer window with Spurs, he couldn’t comment on what they should spend.
Conte said: “I like working at Tottenham because I found a fantastic environment, an incredible stadium and a fantastic training ground. For sure you have to bring the level of the team up. [up] at the same level as our infrastructure.