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How Antonio Conte revolutionised Tottenham’s transfer strategy as Spurs chase Raphinha and Richarlison deals


his time last year, Tottenham were back at square one. Their torturous search for a new manager had just taken its latest turn, after talks with Gennaro Gattuso broke down.

They had lurched from Paulo Fonseca to Erik ten Hag on a seemingly unending list of candidates and talks with Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte had collapsed.

Harry Kane was looking to leave and the apparent lack of a long-term strategy was alarming. Spurs eventually settled on Nuno Espirito Santo — and we know how that went. 12 months on and the mood at Tottenham could not be more different.

After securing Champions League qualification ahead of Arsenal on the final day of the season, the Conte revolution is continuing with a transfer strategy that has all the traits of a club with serious ambition.

The Italian has agreed to stay on as manager after receiving assurances the club share his vision, a summer spending spree is being funded by a £150million cash injection by majority shareholder ENIC and Spurs have already done some shrewd early business.

Yves Bissouma looks a brilliant signing at £25million and fits exactly the profile of player Conte has demanded from managing director Fabio Paratici. His high energy, mixed with guile and craft, is just what the Tottenham midfield needs.

The fact their first summer signing was 33-year-old Ivan Perisic suggests Conte has persuaded Daniel Levy to change his traditional way of doing things to give his manager the best chance of success.

Left wing-back is an area Conte was desperate to strengthen and the hope is that Perisic will bring a winning mentality to the Spurs squad.

But it is the willingness to spend big on either Raphinha or Richarlison that will generate most excitement among supporters. Tottenham have not traditionally gone out and upgraded areas of strength in the transfer market.

Their interest in Leeds’s Raphinha and Everton’s Richarlison to strengthen a brilliant front three of Kane, Heung-min Son and Dejan Kulusevski is more akin to the transfer strategies of Chelsea or Manchester City.

Before the opening game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2019, Pochettino challenged Spurs to act “like a big club”. He wanted them to spend like their rivals and called on Levy to “be brave and take risks if we want to be real contenders for big trophies”.

Antonio Conte has Tottenham thinking big after some impressive early transfer business

/ PA

Conte has been scathing in his assessment of the club’s transfer market mistakes in the three years since, but this summer Spurs appear to be bucking that trend.

Acting more like Chelsea and City in the transfer market suggests a shift in culture and is part of a thought-out plan to try to reduce their reliance on Kane and Son.

As well as a wide forward, their next targets are a left-sided centre-back and a right wing-back. Middlesbrough’s Djed Spence is high on their wish list and would help their homegrown quota. With top defensive target Alessandro Bastoni set to remain at Inter Milan, they will consider alternative options, including Gleison Bremer, Josko Gvardiol, Evan Ndicka and Pau Torres.

There are many reasons for Spurs to be optimistic about what could be achieved next season. It is unlikely they can become a 90-point-plus team who could challenge City and Liverpool for the title. But Chelsea and Manchester United are rebuilding, and third place — and a trophy — looks achievable.

The moves Spurs are making suggest they appear to be on the same page as Conte; it is about thinking big and winning

Conte knows next season will be different. Tottenham had one game a week from virtually February onwards last season and finished the campaign with a core group of only 12 or 13 regular starters. Next season they will have to contend with six Champions League group stage games squeezed into eight weeks before November’s World Cup.

That, plus the introduction of the five-substitute rule in the Premier League, is why Conte has stressed the need for a bigger squad with more quality. He has a track record of transforming clubs. He turned Juventus into serial winners, took Chelsea from 10th to champions and led Inter Milan to a first Serie A title in 11 years.

The moves Spurs are making suggest they appear to be on the same page as Conte; it is about thinking big and winning.

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