The explosion was phenomenal, even by Antonio Conte’s standards.
The Italian manager, who took his seat for a press conference, lost the match after Tottenham Hotspur managed to turn a 1-3 win against the lower team Southampton into a 3-3.
“I’m not used to seeing this kind of situation. I see a lot of selfish players and I don’t see a team,” he was furious, “we’re 11 players on the field. I see selfish players, I see players who don’t want to help each other, don’t show their hearts. [in]”
Scolding his players, Conte returned to the club and its hierarchy.
“They’ve owned it for 20 years and they haven’t won anything, but why? The fault is only at the club or with every manager who stays here,” he continued.
“You run the risk of spoiling the executive figure and keeping the other situation at any time.
“I tried to hide the situation until now, but now no, because I repeat, I don’t want to see what I saw today because that is unacceptable and it is unacceptable for the fans. They follow us, they pay for their tickets and it is unacceptable to see the Team again, to perform like this. We have to think hard about that.”
Although Conte had a track record of following a club hierarchy, most notably at Inter Milan, this one was different.
It was as if something had broken inside the Italian and everything was spilling out.
“There are 10 games to go and some think we can fight. What are we going to fight for? With this spirit, this attitude, this determination? What? For 7th, 8th, 10th? I’m not used to this position.” .
“I’m really sorry and everyone should take responsibility. Not just the club, the coach and the staff, but the players as well, because if Tottenham wants to change, it’s time to change the situation.”
“If they want to continue like this, they can change the manager, many managers, but the situation does not change. Believe it.”
It didn’t take long for experts to suggest that Conte’s position at the club was untenable.
“Conte wants to be fired in this international break,” wrote former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, alongside a video of the remarks on Twitter, “The Spurs have to get him out of his misery and do it tonight.”
Maybe Carragher is right, but even so, we must try to understand why Conte did such a self-sabotage.
Is it broken all over?
It is not uncommon for the public to be aware that a manager has turned down an offer from a club and assumed the role six months later. But that was the case for Tottenham Hotspur and Conte.
His reservations about joining the Spurs in the summer of 2021 were so well documented that when he arrived in November of that year, the club felt the need to explain its change of mind.
“I got a call from Tottenham in the summer but I was very clear with them because after two very important and difficult seasons with Inter my new job is done. [I wasn’t ready]”she said in a post-appointment video interview.
“Tottenham is an important club in England and around the world. The stadium, the training ground are great. The club and [Tottenham chairman] Daniel Levy wanted me fiercely. This is a great opportunity to become a manager. I saw the training ground and I want to start work.”
It’s tempting to wonder though, did Conte have reservations that went beyond timing? And was it ever really resolved?
Just a few months into the job, he was complaining about “the big gap between us and the top teams”.
The “gap” will “take many years” to close because “the team’s level has dropped rather than improved over the last few years.”
But even after a summer when the club made a significant investment in its playing roster, Conte still didn’t look satisfied.
He snapped at a pre-match press conference earlier in the year, speaking of his frustration that “In England there is a bad habit of just being the coach to talk and explain”.
In the context of Conte’s Southampton post-match comments, it makes you think of the time he tried to “hide the situation”.
And then there is the personal pressure that the coach is subjected to.
A traumatic few months
It doesn’t take a psychologist to understand what external factors might have triggered Conte’s explosion.
After major surgery in Italy, the Spurs had just returned to the bench; it was a health scare that came shortly after he lost three of his close friends to cancer within a few months.
In October, Conte was shaken by the tragic death of his longtime fitness trainer, Gian Piero Ventrone, then in December his friend Sinisa Mihajlovic passed away, and lastly, Juventus and Italy teammate Gianluca Vialli died in early 2023.
“This is a difficult season personally,” he said of his friends’ deaths.
“It was not easy to lose three people I knew very well, Gian Piero Ventrone, then Sinisa and now Gianluca in such a short time.
“Of course, when that happens, it brings you significant repercussions.”
Not wanting to uproot his family for a long time, Conte lived apart from his wife and daughter while coaching the Spurs.
While many admit that there is more to life than football, such tensions are often overlooked by fanatical fans and the media.
Sure, he gets a decent salary as a Tottenham Hotspur manager, but all the money in the world can’t buy time with his family.
The death of his friends caused Conte to think about this, in addition to the ephemeral nature of our existence.
“Often we put so much emphasis on our work and forget about our family that we forget that we need to take more time for ourselves,” he added.
“This season allows me to have important thoughts about my future.”
We must take this into account when analyzing his explosion. In addition to being an elite coach, Conte is a man who has been separated from his family, has undergone major surgery and has lost three close friends.