Opinion: Five players who could follow Antonio Conte from Italy to Spurs

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Antonio Conte
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Antonio Conte is the new manager of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. For the club in its current state, this is a coup of the highest order.

The week Conte joined brought us the low of one of the driest, most disappointing performances in recent memory against United last Sunday to the high of his appointment, followed by a ‘crazy game’ as the Godfather referred to it and then a far less crazy one at Goodison – a pretty standard week as a fan of the ridiculous, incredible club.

Not to put a damper on things, but let’s not forget we have been here before: appointing a former Premier League title-winning boss without West London neighbours, mid-season, with fans dreaming of Tottenham winning medal after medal.

What the Spurs hierarchy must do differently with Conte, that they did not do with Mourinho, is not just invest in the playing staff, but, crucially, buy the type of player that means that Spurs can compete with the rest of the top six.

They cannot do this by playing negative football, but by bringing the talent that the truly top players possess to break down defences, dictate play and produce magic, to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The signs are good however, unlike Mourinho, Conte historically refuses to work without major investment. In order to bring him to N17, assurances must have been made and we can expect some major business over the next few windows.

Conte’s knowledge of Serie A, in addition to Fabio Paratici joining the club over the summer, means that Italy may be a heavy source of recruitment in the near future.

Links to the Italian top-flight’s stars have been all over Spurs fans’ Twitter feeds this week, so I am going to pick out 5 Serie A players that could follow Conte to Tottenham.

Franck Kessie

The tough-tackling Ivorian has been the focus of a great deal of transfer gossip due to his contract situation at AC Milan.

With 12 months left on his deal, many of the world’s top clubs would love to have a player of Kessie’s quality with no transfer fee and when competition for transfers arises, Spurs tend to stick their heads in the sand.

This may be something that Conte’s demands to be changed.

Kessie would bring something to Spurs that they have lacked, as he combines defensive output with excellent ball progression: essentially what we expected from Tanguy N’dombele when he first joined the club.

Ndombele has been impressive, one of the only Spurs players that have been able to pick the locks of defensive teams, but he has been unable to do this consistently alongside solid defensive numbers.

Kessie could free up Ndombele and Lo Celso and any other creative midfielders to roam free whilst still retaining defensive solidity.

One report from Italy has suggested the Spurs are already close to an agreement with Kessie’s agent – if true, it’s an excellent first addition of Conte’s reign.

Dusan Vlahovic

The Serbian starlet was bound to be one of the first names linked to Spurs following Conte’s arrival. 

With a potential move to a 3-5-2, having a player like Vlahovic rotate with Kane and Son and with plenty of minutes available for all three means this move is a lot more viable and likely.

Tottenham could yet again benefit from a contract situation, with Vlahovic’s deal set to run out at the end of next season, meaning his value may have come down slightly from the £50m+ being touted this last summer.

With 21 goals in Serie A last year and 8 in just 11 appearances this term, the young Serb looks like the perfect person to partner and eventually replace Harry Kane’s output.

Nicolo Barella

Conte could look to recruit from his scudetto-winning Inter side.

Several Inter Milan stars would definitely improve this current Spurs team, however, I have picked out the two best fits for us and our current needs: Nicolo Barella and Alessandro Bastoni.

Barella was crucial to Conte’s Inter as he combines incredible vision, strong ball-carrying and quick-thinking on the counter-attack with high ball recovery. 

He also possesses an excellent long-range shot: remind you of a certain Dane that used to wear Lilywhite that I mentioned earlier?

Barella is hard-working and passionate – the perfect Conte player.

He has in the last couple of days signed a new contract, however, with Inter likely to be cash-strapped in the next few windows, they may just be increasing the value of their asset.

If the likes of Dele, Ndombele and Lo Celso fail to impress the Italian, don’t be surprised if we see Barella come through the door at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Alessandro Bastoni

The other Inter player that I feel would be an excellent addition to Conte’s squad would improve Spurs in an area they have been weak for a number of years. 

Tottenham have been linked with all three of Inter’s centre-backs (who played the majority of games in their title-winning season), with Stefan De Vrij the most touted in the media at this moment and Milan Skriniar coming close to a move last summer, after that infamous photo of Spurs’ recruitment guru, Steve Hitchen in Milan making the rounds.

This follows the mantra that Conte is here to get results for the now, whereas Tottenham have previously been overly focused on the future and De Vrij and Skriniar are ready-made top-class centre-backs.

However, I would argue that Alessandro Bastoni is equally as competent as his two senior counterparts and crucially, plays on the left side of a back three due to that side being his preferred foot.

Tottenham have been missing a left-footed centre-back ever since Jan Vertonghen left the club and Bastoni would be securing perhaps the best young defender in world football of that type. 

Federico Chiesa

The final inclusion is somewhat of a luxury.

Pre-Conte any of these 5 would be an extreme departure from the norm regarding incomings, but anything seems possible with Godfather in charge.

Chiesa is Italy’s biggest young talent and the tricky wide-man has already proved his quality on the big stages, especially with the Azzuri at the Euros and the recent Nations League finals.

He is equally adept at cutting in from the left as he is as a traditional winger, combined with Son’s flexibility, opposition fullbacks wouldn’t know whether they were coming or going. 

Chiesa certainly knows how to terrify defenders and has excellent technique, whether his final ball is a cross, a pass or a beautifully curled shot into the far corner.

Possible Spurs XIs (3-4-3 + 3-5-2):

Lloris; Romero. Dier, Bastoni; Emerson, Barella, Kessie, Reguilon; Chiesa, Kane, Son

Lloris; Romero. Dier, Bastoni; Emerson, Barella, Hojbjerg, Kessie, Reguilon; Kane, Vlahovic

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