Antonio Conte attacked his Tottenham players and the entire culture and management of the football club on Saturday night.
In a stunning rant 10 minutes after Spurs drew 3-3 with Southampton, Conte called his players ‘selfish’, said they were only playing ‘for themselves’ and suggested that there was a culture of underperformance at the club. He even pointed the finger at Daniel Levy, mentioning the lack of success under ENIC over the past 20 years.
Even before those comments, there was little chance that Conte would continue as Spurs manager beyond this season when his contract expired. Some of these comments will raise questions about whether he will go through with his contract.
Conte even doubted changing managers would make a difference in changing what he called ‘the situation’ at Spurs.
Conte was unwilling to discuss the details of Spurs’ damaging draw with the Saints but instead went straight to his players and their attitude.
“The problem is that for another time we have shown that we are not a team, we are 11 players who go on the pitch,” Conte said. “I see selfish players, I see players who don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart into it.”
Conte, who has never spoken like that before as Tottenham head coach, said he was hiding the truth about his Spurs team and could only now reveal the truth to the world.
“Before today, I prefer to hide this situation and try to talk, try to improve the spirit, the situation, with words,” he said. “The most important thing if you want to become a strong team, if you want to become competitive, if you want to fight to win, it’s the desire, the fire that you have to have in your eyes, in your heart, and you it must be shown at every moment.
Highlighting today’s result and recent FA Cup exit to a very different Sheffield United side, Conte said the players’ spirit and motivation were worse than last season.
“If I have to compare last season and this season we have to improve, but now we are worse in this aspect,” he said. “When you are not a team, anything can happen, at any time. Today is the latest situation.
“Don’t forget that in the FA Cup we lost against Sheffield United, who were playing with young players. Being a team is the most important thing. To understand that we are playing for the badge. We have to play to give back our fans proud of us.We have to pay to show our desire.
Conte was furious not only with the players themselves, but also with the culture at the club which stipulates that players are the only ones who never have to take responsibility.
“The club has the responsibility for the transfer market, every manager who stayed here has the responsibility,” he said. “And the players? The players? Where are the players? In my experience, if you want to be competitive, if you want to fight, you have to improve that aspect.
When Conte was told that his own contract situation was not helping the players, Conte replied that it was just playing into the hands of the players: “You find an alibi, another alibi. You try to find an excuse for the players.
Conte tried to argue that the team’s failure had to do with a deep lack of ambition and the culture of not winning.
“Because they’re used to it here, they’re used to it,” he said, when asked why it happened at Spurs. “They’re not playing for anything important. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under pressure. It’s easy that way. The story of Tottenham is this: 20 years that the owner has been there, and they have never won anything, but why?
Conte even appeared to strike a sympathetic note with his predecessors as Tottenham manager, saying he had “seen the managers Tottenham had on the bench”, suggesting they weren’t the problem here. But he knows the problems go deeper than the man in the shelter. He said there was no point in aiming for fourth place this year, and even if he left his post soon, it would not solve the problems.
“There are 10 games left and some people think we can fight. To fight for what with his spirit, this attitude, this commitment? What? For seventh, eighth, 10th place? I’m not used to this post. I am really upset and everyone needs to take responsibility,” he said.
“Not just the club, the manager and the staff. The players have to be involved in this situation because it’s time to change this situation if Tottenham want to change. If they want to continue in this way, they can change managers, a lot of managers, but the situation cannot change. Believe me.”
(Photo: Getty Images)