Antonio Conte attacked his Tottenham players and the entire culture and direction of the football club on Saturday night.
In an incredible 10-minute speech after Spurs drew 3-3 against Southampton, Conte branded his players “selfish”, said they were only playing “for themselves” and suggested there was a culture of failure 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 these comments, there was little prospect of Conte remaining as Spurs manager beyond this season when his contract expires. Some of these comments will raise the question of whether he will last until the end of his contract.
Conte even doubted whether the change of manager would affect what he called “the situation” at Spurs.
Conte did not want to discuss the details of Spurs’ damaging league draw with the Saints, but went straight to his players and their attitude.
“The problem is that we have shown once again that we are not a team, we are 11 players who go out on the field,” 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 this before as Tottenham head coach, said he has been hiding the truth about his Spurs and can only now reveal the truth to the world.
“Before today, I would rather hide this situation and try to speak, 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 for victory, is the desire, the fire you need to have in your eyes, in your heart and I have to show it at all times.”
Pointing to today’s result and recent FA Cup exit to a much-changed Sheffield United side, Conte said the spirit and motivation of the players was 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’re not a team, anything can happen, at any time. Today is the last situation.
“Don’t forget that in the FA Cup we lost to Sheffield United, who played with young players. The most important thing is to be a team. To understand that we are playing for a badge. We have to play to make our fans proud of us. We have to pay to show the desire.”
Conte was furious not only at the players themselves but also at the culture at the club which says that the players are the only ones who never have to take any responsibility.
“The club has a responsibility for the transfer market, every coach who has stayed here has a 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 this aspect.”
When Conte was told that his contractual situation was not helping the players, Conte said it only worked for the players: “You find an alibi, another alibi. You try to make an excuse for the players.”
Conte tried to argue that the team’s failure was down to a deep-rooted lack of ambition and a 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 are not playing for something important. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress. It’s easy this way. Tottenham’s story is this: 20 years the owner has been here and they have never won anything, but why?”
Conte even appeared to sympathize with his predecessors as Tottenham manager, saying he had “seen the managers Tottenham had on the bench”, suggesting they were not the problem here. But he knows the problems run deeper than the man in the dugout. He said there’s no point in even aiming for fourth this year, and even if he quits soon, it won’t solve the problems.
“There are still 10 games to go and some people think we can fight. What to fight for with your spirit, this attitude, this dedication? What? For seventh, eighth, 10th place? I’m not used to this position. I’m really upset and everyone has to take their responsibility,” he said.
“Not only the club, the manager and the staff. The players have to be involved in this situation because it is time for this situation to change if Tottenham want to change. If they want to continue like this, they can change managers, many managers, but the situation cannot be changed. Trust me.”
(Photo: Getty Images)