Paul Merson claims he can see Antonio Conte returning to Juventus next summer if Tottenham fail to finish in the top four this season.
Reports over recent weeks have suggested that Tottenham have opened talks with Conte’s entourage over a new contract and that the North London club are ‘confident’ the Italian will commit his future to the club (The Athletic).
However, Italian publications have continued to insist that a return to Juventus next summer is on the cards for the 53-year-old.
The print edition of Gazzetta dello Sport (28/10/22 as relayed by Sport Witness) stated last week that Conte is Juve’s number one target to replace Massimiliano Allegri at the end of the season.
The report remarked that the Tottenham head coach has a ‘very strong bond’ with the Old Lady and ‘would hardly say no’ to the job if it was offered to him.
Merson believes that finishing in the top four is simply not enough for Conte and that the Italian could be tempted by the prospect of competing for trophies in Turin.
The former Arsenal midfielder to Soccer Special on Sky Sports (01/11/22 at 7:10 pm): “He’s an elite manager. A top manager. These managers don’t deal with coming fourth in the league. It doesn’t rock their boat. They want to win trophies and that’s what they are all about.
“I am not sure – I see these players in the Champions League. On their day, they are a tight-knit team. They are hard to break down on their day and they have got the ammunition upfront, when Kulusevski is fit, for them front three to hurt anybody in the world of football. I don’t care who they are playing. And they can keep it solid.
“I’m not sure he will be there. I am not sure. He’s an elite manager. Juventus, they are in a rocky situation. If Juventus can get into the top four this season, and get into the Champions League, then I think he could go back.”
When asked if he can see Conte jumping ship from Spurs to Juve, Merson responded: “Not now, not today.
“But, at the end of the season, if Tottenham haven’t come in the top four, and they got out in the last 16 or last eight of the Champions League and Juventus are in the Champions League next season, then I think it’s a challenge for him to get Juventus back up to where everybody expects them to be in Serie A.
“They (Spurs) are a million miles off winning it (Premier League title) here. I think Juventus have fallen behind a lot. Behind Napoli and the two Milan teams. I think there’s a big challenge there. He wants to win trophies, Conte.”
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If Tottenham fail to finish in the top four this season that would be a failure on Conte’s part. So, if that came to pass, I do not think the Spurs hierarchy will be desperate to keep him at the club.
However, as things stand, there seems to be genuine optimism at Tottenham that Conte could guide the club to silverware. So, I believe that the North London club will back the Italian in January and do what it takes to tie him down to a long-term deal.
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