‘He loves the manager’ – Coach reveals what Dier told him about Conte

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Eric Dier
Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Eric Dier’s youth coach at Sporting Lisbon, Jose Joao, has revealed that the centre-back talked with him about the admiration he has for Antonio Conte.

The Athletic have done a deep dive into Dier’s formative years at Sporting ahead of Tottenham’s Champions League clash with the Portuguese club this evening.

The centre-back spent a decade in the club’s academy before breaking into their first team and earning a move to Spurs in 2014.

The report reveals that Dier was on holiday in Portugal this summer and visited the Sporting academy to give advice to the youngsters at the club.

During the visit, the Tottenham man also met Joao, who was his first coach at the Lisbon club, having seen him through under-nines to under-11s.

Joao, who now coaches Sporting’s Under-17s, told The Athletic about meeting Dier: “It was really nice, really lovely.

“I look completely different now — I had loads of hair back then, now I have none — but he recognised me straight away. It was a great moment, really gratifying.

“You lose contact with players over time, and Eric went to another country. But certain people leave a mark on you, and that was the case with him. It was my first season as a coach and his first at the club.

“I remember when he first arrived, aged eight, he just cried. He didn’t want to be there. But the next day he came back and joined the rest of the boys for the session.”

Joao also revealed that it was immediately apparent to him that Dier had something special about him.

He added: “I quickly saw that he was different to the other players we had at the time. He had a lot of quality — particularly in his relationship with the ball, which is the thing we look for at that age.

“That was how everything started. It was also my first year as a coach at Sporting. I was 22, fresh out of university. I ended up working with him for the following two years.

“His body shape made us think that we would make a good centre-back or No 6. He was very developed for his age. He was tall and very thin, but his legs were muscly.

“Because he wasn’t really fast, we thought he should play centrally, with the game in front of him. It was quite easy to see. His profile made him a perfect fit for those positions, even if we played seven-a-side in those first years.”

Joao admitted that he is proud of the heights Dier has reached in the game and shared what the centre-back told him about Conte.

He said: “Today, Eric is a reference point at Tottenham. He’s a leader; people listen to what he says, and you can see the influence he has on the team.

“He loves the manager. When I saw him in the summer, I asked him which coach he identified with the most across his entire career, and he said it was (Antonio) Conte — you can see that the atmosphere at Tottenham today is different.

“He’s also an incredible human being. He still looks like the little kid I first met all that time ago. He’s still shy and reserved, that hasn’t changed. He’s a fantastic person and it’s a big honour to have coached him.”

Spurs Web Opinion

It is apparent that there is a lot of mutual respect between Conte and Dier. I felt Mourinho treated the 28-year-old unfairly by throwing him under the bus publicly, which led to a lot of Spurs fans turning against him.

Thankfully, Conte immediately saw the England international’s attributes and leadership qualities, and has helped him to fulfil his potential in central defence.

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