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At Tottenham, Antonio Conte is betting on himself… and that’s not a bad thing

Antonio Conte is betting on himself. He’s betting that he can restore star-crossed players to greatness (or, at least, a level of output equal to their salaries/transfer fees). Betting that he can jolt Tottenham Hotspur to life. Betting that his "intensity/winning mentality schtick" — which has generally been around as long as coaches, in any sport, have existed, but which he takes to another level — will be so successful that it persuades the club to loosen the budget constraints and invest meaningfully in the squad.

(And — a corollary to that last wager — betting that if they don’t spend, he’ll still achieve enough that he’ll be able to jump ship to a bigger club… hence his 18-month contract.)

Knowing what we know about Spurs and about Conte, the above is simply the most rational and plausible explanation behind the union of the thriftiest "Big Six" club in the Premier League and a man who left his last three club jobs ( Juventus , Chelsea and Inter) because his team were unwilling or unable to "invest" to a degree that matched his ambition.

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Over the past decade, Tottenham’s net spend has been €233.3m, an amount dwarfed by Liverpool (€342.9m), Chelsea (€430.1m), Arsenal (€619.3m) and the two Manchester clubs (City and United are both well past the billion Euro net spend mark). Their wage bill has also consistently been lowest out of the "Big Six," too. It’s true that Spurs have spent more than usual in net terms over the past three seasons — according to Transfermarkt, they’ve actually outspent Liverpool and Chelsea in that time frame — but it’s equally true that they were hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic and have a massive stadium to pay off.

Other possible explanations? Maybe Conte isn’t as obsessed with winning and ambition as he once was (unlikely). Maybe the club is about to be sold to Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk or some other multi-billionaire happy to bankroll massive losses in exchange for success (also unlikely). Or maybe the club’s existing billionaire owner, Joe Lewis, has decided, now that he’s in his mid-80s, that he’d rather pour cash into the club and see them win rather than sitting around in the Bahamas (even less likely). So let’s stick with the most plausible one: Conte is betting on himself and putting his reputation on the line, and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s done this either. Conte is unfairly painted as a manager who only succeeds with lots of spending, but his work with the Italy national team might be most instructive about what he can do at Spurs. Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images Conte did it in 2014, when — after winning three straight Serie A titles — he walked out on Juventus, complaining that they weren’t signing "top players" […]

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