Antonio Conte says that he delivered the unvarnished truth to Daniel Levy at a meeting to discuss Tottenham’s January transfer business and it is up to the chairman to deliver on his recommendations.
Levy returned from the Bahamas at the weekend, where he spent time with the Spurs owner, Joe Lewis, and he sat down with Conte and the managing director of football, Fabio Paratici, los lunes.
Conte, who said the club had opened talks with Hugo Lloris about a contract extension – the captain’s deal expires in June – has conducted a thorough evaluation of the squad he inherited from Nuno Espírito Santo at the start of November.
Conte believes it needs surgery and he has not been slow to highlight how the club have slipped to a mediocre level, seeing a gap open up to teams such as Chelsea, who Spurs host in the Carabao Cup semi-final, second leg on Wednesday night. Chelsea are 2-0 hasta.
Conte feels he needs a centre-half, a midfielder, a right-sided player and a back-up striker and, although he accepts that January is a difficult window and the summer is a more realistic time for an overhaul, he wants to see progress before the end of the month.
The manager has a strong interest in Wolves’ Adama Traoré, who can play at right wing-back or right wing, and he would like to be reunited with the Internazionale centre-half Stefan de Vrij, with whom he worked at San Siro. De Vrij, 30 en febrero, would not appear to fit Levy’s desired profile for signings. Spurs have been linked with a move for the Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, although they may prefer to wait until the summer when he is out of contract.
“When you have the possibility to speak to the owner [Levy] and the sporting director … with Paratici I have the possibility to speak every day … but to speak with our owner, it was important,” Conte said. “Also because I like to be honest and always tell the truth. You know that I don’t like to tell a good lie to keep a good relationship or show myself to be very soft or too polite. It was good to tell the truth and it was a good meeting.
“I’d asked the club for time to make my evaluation. They asked me after one month to have a meeting but I said: 'No. I prefer to have another month to make the right evaluation.’ To show me who deserves to stay here. Now the situation is very clear and I was satisfied to have this conversation with the owner.
“Now I have only one way – it’s on the pitch and the training sessions every day … to improve the level of my players. Entonces, the club know the situation and, if they want to help me another way, I appreciate it.”
Conte expressed confidence that agreement could be reached for Lloris to stay, which felt like him exerting a little more pressure on the board.
“I think that they have started to talk,” Conte said. “You know very well what I think about Hugo. He’s an important player and I’m sure that they are going to find a solution for him to continue to play with Tottenham. For sure I am very confident about this situation to be positive.”
Conte reported that Cristian Romero had “taken a little part” in training on Tuesday and was “very close” to a return after a hamstring tear. He added that he continued to count on Steven Bergwijn, who is also close to coming back from injury. Ajax want the winger but the clubs are a distance apart on their valuations.