From AVB to Jose: Spurs' warning signs after their pursuit of Conte

From Andre Villas-Boas’ bipolar spell to Jose Mourinho’s slow meltdown… Spurs’ hopes of landing Antonio Conte are now in tatters but their history with former Chelsea bosses should have already been a warning

  • Tottenham have been in hot pursuit of Antonio Conte after he left Inter Milan
  • However, they have now abandoned their pursuit due to fears from the Italian
  • Conte is worried about Tottenham’s ambition, in another big blow to Daniel Levy
  • A return would have been controversial after taking charge of Chelsea 
  • Conte would not have been the first former Blues boss to go and manage Spurs 

The dust hasn’t yet settled on the Premier League season, but the managerial merry-go-round is already in full flow.

Tottenham, as have become more prevalent in recent years, find themselves at the epicentre once again. The north London club have bought the ticket and now it is time to enjoy the ride once more.

Following Jose Mourinho’s shock axing as the campaign reached the latter stages, Spurs have been without a first team coach and have had 29-year-old Ryan Mason at the helm.

To say things have been unconventional would be an understatement. And again, Spurs appeared to be on the cusp of reverting back to a game-plan tested out before.

Tottenham have been hoping to land Antonio Conte but a deal now seems off the cards

The same game-plan of bringing in a former boss of bitter west London rivals Chelsea, in hope of restoring better times and taking Tottenham to the top table of English and European football.

Andre Villas-Boas and Mourinho, very recently, have been here before. Now they tried their luck with Antonio Conte.

The Italian, who was Chelsea boss between 2016 and 2018, was on the brink of taking over at Tottenham this summer having recently walked away from Inter Milan following personal differences with the club’s hierarchy.

But any hopes Tottenham fans had of the serial winner being appointed now appear to have dashed. 

Tottenham’s pursuit of Conte has faltered amid concerns from the Italian over the club’s ambitions. 

In his short stint in England, Conte showed his brilliance by winning the league with Chelsea

Talks between Spurs and the manager are underway, but it is understood he is stalling with Tottenham officials now seriously doubting whether appointing the former Inter Milan boss is possible.

Conte would have been some coup for Spurs, having recently penetrated Juventus’ stronghold in Serie A and surged to the league title with Inter, preventing a tenth consecutive win for his former club in the process.

Conte has all the credentials, and has already become a Premier League winning boss despite spending only two seasons in England. In which time the FA Cup was also lifted.

It’s easy to see why Spurs moved rapidly to get the sought after Italian on board, but does history suggest this would have been a wise move? Sportsmail took a closer look at previous crossings of the divide… 

Andre Villa-Boas

Appointed: July 3, 2012

Sacked: December 16, 2013

Villas-Boas represented a huge change of direction for Tottenham.

His unveiling in the summer of 2012 brought a wave of optimism into the club; new ideas, new styles of play and – hopefully – a newfound status as one of Europe’s top football clubs.

The Portuguese came in to replace Harry Redknapp, who had done a stellar job with the side and had already previously achieved Champions League football, but could not agree fresh terms with the club.

The pressure was on; Redknapp had guided Spurs to their second fourth-placed finish in three years and missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification only by the freak nature of Chelsea winning the competition.

Now, Villas-Boas had big shoes to fill, but the belief was huge.

Andre Villas-Boas represented a new direction for Spurs, as they moved quickly to bring him in

He had been relieved of his duties from Chelsea in March of the same year, before Spurs acquired his services in July. It represented a bitter crossing of the divide but a system was in place for the man known as AVB to build a dynasty.

Except, it simply did not happen.

Less than 18 months later, Villas-Boas would be handed his P-45 and ushered quietly out of the back door.

Early signs were good. On 29 September 2012, Villas-Boas became the first Tottenham manager to win at Old Trafford after putting Manchester United to the sword with a 3-2 victory.

He was seen as the modern coach. Young, suave, strutting down the touchline in a tailored trench-coat while mulling over tactics in his whirring mind.

But Tottenham would come unstuck. The side began waning at the worst moments, with lapses of concentration often showing a soft underbelly.

Villas-Boas did scoop Manager of the Month in December 2012, but heading into the crunch period of the season Spurs came unstuck in what was seen as a very winnable game against Everton.

The brilliance of Gareth Bale aided the Portuguese boss greatly, and his exit ruined everything

Spurs led in the 90th minute of the match, yet two goals from the Toffees in as many minutes left them shell-shocked.

Nevertheless, with Gareth Bale driving the side on, Villas-Boas got Spurs into the last 16 of the Europa League and faced a scenario on the final weekend of the season where his side needed to win in order to book a place in the Champions League.

Spurs did win, against Sunderland, but cruelly missed out as Arsenal managed to beat Newcastle to steal the last remaining place for qualification. Villas-Boas may have been outdone by Arsene Wenger, but things overall looked positive.

Summer offers from European giants did come in the way of the Portuguese manager, but he was happy at Spurs. So too were the club happy with him.

Then second season syndrome struck, and hard. The chain of events started with Bale’s world record move to Real Madrid, which ripped a hole in the squad and simply could not be healed – despite Spurs spending lavishly on SEVEN replacement stars.

The Spurs honeymoon period didn’t last for Villas-Boas and he soon found himself struggling

A poor start to the season saw Spurs sit in seventh, without any real rhythm or identity. Matters were bleak and Villas-Boas knew it; the honeymoon period was over.

He lasted until December of 2013, before the decision was made to axe him from the dugout.

At the time they had won each of their Europa League group games, though huge 6-0 and 5-0 defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool respectively had taken their toll. The gamble had not worked, and it was time to break the emergency glass.

Villas-Boas would later say he was unfairly treated, and perhaps he had a point. He departed with an overall win ratio of 67.5%, which to this day is the best victory margin of any post-war Tottenham manager.

Jose Mourinho

Appointed: November 20, 2019

Sacked: April 19, 2021

There was an air of shock when Mourinho stepped into the hotseat to become Spurs boss last November.

Not because of his former Chelsea allegiances – it was already clear that Tottenham would take former managers of their rivals – but because of his standing.

Mourinho had always associated himself with the cream of the crop. The title winners of each country he stepped foot in, or historic European champions.

To add Spurs to his CV alongside the likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Manchester United turned a few heads.

Jose Mourinho jumped at the chance to return to London and manage Spurs, and was seen as the man who could finally turn the club into bonafide European giants

Clearly then, it was assumed, a concrete plan must be in place for Spurs to surge into the big time and go one better than the previous reign of Maurico Pochettino; who battled to a Champions League final.

Mourinho started brightly and got off the ground with a London derby win over West Ham in his maiden match in charge.

Though his playing style was criticised, Spurs looked to be doing things right and getting the results they needed. 

With Pochettino having left mid-season, Mourinho was given a salvage mission and tasked with steadying the ship. It was one he relished, and all the while daily action was filmed during an Amazon Prime fly-on-the-wall documentary.

During the first season Mourinho recorded his 300th win in English football when his Tottenham side again beat West Ham, with a 2–0 win on 23 June 2020.

Positive signs were in place, yet an implosion always felt as though it was not too far away.

A maiden season of steadying the ship was followed by a second in which Spurs just unraveled

An injury-hit end to the season, with several first team stars ruled out, meant Spurs could only manage a sixth placed finish. Still, given Mourinho came in midway through, it was accepted.

The current campaign which has just ended, however, truly brought out the dark side of Mourinho and Spurs once again soon realised a mistake had been made.

A sizzling start to the season brought about the most cruel of false dawns. Spurs demolished United 6-1 in their own back yard, on a particularly sweet afternoon for Mourinho.

Thereafter the wins continued to pile up. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min established the most telepathic of understandings and all was well in the world. A last minute home defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool grated on Mourinho however, and soon the cracks began to show.

A 5-4 FA Cup elimination by Everton, which required extra-time, really hit Mourinho where it hurt. The Portuguese started to aim barbs at his players, after having already publicly slated the likes of record signing Tanguy N’Dombele and Dele Alli.

It was reported that during his final weeks at the club, Mourinho had only Harry Kane on side

With a swiftly falling league position, many people believed Mourinho could turn things around by winning the Europa League. Perhaps he did, too, until Spurs crashed out to Dinamo Zagreb in the round of 16, despite initially controlling the tie.

The point of no return had been passed. Spurs were not working for Mourinho and he certainly wasn’t working for them. Reports claimed that in the final weeks of his tenure only talisman Kane remained loyal to the manager, with all those around him becoming disillusioned.

Mourinho was sacked in mid-April and cleared his office at Spurs HQ the very same day. It was yet another warning sign that taking on a former Chelsea chief at Tottenham was not the way to go. 

Honourable mention

Glenn Hoddle

Appointed: March 2001

Sacked: September 2003

A little different from the two men prior, but it was Hoddle who tread the path from Chelsea to Spurs.

After taking over at Stamford Bridge as a player manager in 1993, Hoddle would go on to have spells in charge of the England national team and Southampton before finding his way to north London.

Hoddle was instated after the sacking of George Graham and, after an initially indifferent spell, went on to earn cult status after booking a place in the League Cup final.

What made this all the more special was the manner; a semi-final victory over none other than Chelsea by a 5-1 scoreline. 

Glenn Hoddle first crossed the divide from Chelsea to Spurs but ultimately came up short

Spurs would lose the final to Blackburn and, ultimately, their Premier League season would crumble to a ninth placed finish. Hoddle was however recognised with a manager of the month award for October 2001.

The season which followed started brightly for Hoddle. Spurs looked the real deal and the decision to bring him on board looked to be bearing fruit.

The prestigious Manager of the Month award was again won in August 2002, yet another rise to the top of the table was once more undone by a late slide and a tenth placed finish to end the campaign.

Hoddle was sacked by Spurs in the latter months of 2003, as the club deemed his appointment one which was simply not working out.

It would, as is it now well documented, become one of a running theme of former Chelsea bosses failing in the white of Spurs.  

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