TOM COLLOMOSSE: Conte looks to be entering his endgame at Tottenham
Antonio Conte looks to be entering his endgame at Tottenham after his side were hammered 4-1 by Leicester… with vacancies likely to appear at each of Italy’s big three clubs, his time in English football may soon be up
- Antonio Conte’s Tottenham were beaten 4-1 by Leicester on Saturday
- The manager will return to his native Italy for Spurs’ clash with AC Milan
- He may be tempted to take a job in the country at the end of his current deal
Antonio Conte returns to his homeland on Monday and it could be a matter of when — not if — he will be back for good.
Taking on AC Milan at San Siro on Tuesday should be Conte’s ideal stage. As a successful former player and coach at Juventus, and title-winning boss of Inter Milan, there is nothing he would like better than to give the other member of Italy’s traditional big three a hiding in their own back yard.
Yet as he prepares to lead Tottenham into their Champions League last-16 tie against the Italian champions, Conte will find it difficult to be at his bullish best.
It was remarkable that the 53-year-old returned to work only eight days after surgery to remove his gallbladder. The NHS website says it ‘will usually take around two weeks to return to your normal activities if you have a desk job, and longer if you have a more manual job.’
Conte was in the dugout for this shambolic display at Leicester but quite understandably, he lacked his usual vigour in the technical area. Whether he can regain it in time for a big European tie seems doubtful.
Antonio Conte will return to his native Italy on Tuesday as Tottenham face AC Milan
His Spurs side were thrashed 4-1 by Leicester in their last game on Saturday
James Maddison got on the scoresheet in his first game as Foxes captain
Conte has been through a dreadful time. Gian Piero Ventrone, the fitness coach Conte worked with as a player at Juventus in the 1990s and brought to Tottenham, died last October.
Then in January he mourned Gianluca Vialli, friend and team-mate with Juventus and Italy from 1992-96, less than a month after the death of former Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, another friend. All the while his wife Elisabetta and daughter Vittoria are living in Italy.
‘For sure to have my family in Italy is not good,’ said Conte last month. ‘I have a family who try to support me and come here in every moment that they can come. But this becomes more difficult when situations like these happen with Gianluca, Gian Piero and Sinisa.’
Conte’s contract at Tottenham expires at the end of the season and he seems to be entering the endgame in north London.
Crisis-hit Juventus will surely be looking for a new manager at the end of the season, Milan too if Stefano Pioli cannot arrest the recent slide. It will also have occurred to Inter coach Simone Inzaghi that Conte might one day want his old job back, even though he and the club parted on unhappy terms two years ago.
Conte is at his best with his back to the wall and it would be no surprise if Tottenham progressed against Milan, who beat Torino 1-0 last Friday but remain fragile. The worry for Spurs is how badly they defended at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers deserves great credit for reviving his side in worrying times. They lost four on the spin after the World Cup and with fixtures against Aston Villa, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, February looked daunting. The Foxes would have snapped your hand off for six points from those games, yet they have already claimed two wins.
Made captain for the first time in his career, James Maddison responded with a goal and an assist. Despite a season interrupted by a knee injury, the 26-year-old has nine goals and five assists in the league this term.
Leicester were impressive, but Tottenham’s defensive performance was alarming at times
Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan side have struggled since Christmas but did beat Torino in their last game
Maddison is believed to have had further checks on his knee last week and keeping him fit holds the key to Leicester’s season. Next up, a trip to Old Trafford on Sunday, the sort of stage Maddison craves. ‘He was outstanding as captain,’ said Rodgers. ‘He’s one of the best players in the league and he has grown as a leader. He didn’t train a lot last week as he was managing an issue but he’s an outstanding player.’
Rodrigo Bentancur, who later went off injured, put Spurs in front but they were well beaten thanks to goals from Nampalys Mendy, Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho and Harvey Barnes.
Leicester (4-4-1-1): Ward 5; Castagne 7.5, Souttar 8, Faes 7, Kristiansen 7; Tete 5 (Praet 77min), Mendy 7 (Ndidi 69, 6), Dewsbury-Hall 7.5, BARNES 8.5; Maddison 7.5 (Pereira 88); Iheanacho 8 (Vardy 77).
Scorers: Mendy 23, Maddison 25, Iheanacho 45+4, Barnes 81.
Booked: Faes, Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall, Barnes, Souttar.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers 8
Tottenham (3-4-3): Forster 5; Tanganga 5.5 (Sanchez 76), Dier 4, Davies 6; Porro 4.5 (Emerson Royal 75, 6), Hojbjerg 6, Bentancur 7 (Sarr 65, 6), Perisic 6 (Richarlison 75, 6); Kulusevski 5.5 (Danjuma 79), Kane 5, Son 5.
Scorer: Bentancur 14.
Booked: Bentancur, Dier.
Manager: Antonio Conte 5.
Referee: Michael Salisbury 5.
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