Antonio Conte’s astonishing rant at his “selfish” Tottenham players and the culture of the club leaves the Spurs hierarchy with a difficult decision to make.
Conte’s days in north London already seemed numbered prior to his scathing outburst after Saturday’s 3-3 draw at bottom-of-the-table Southampton.
The Italian is out of contract at the end of the season, with neither side keen on extending his stay into a third campaign, but now he could face the sack during the forthcoming international break.
With Tottenham desperately trying to hold on to fourth place in the Premier League and the riches of a return to the Champions League next season, chairman Daniel Levy must decide whether their final 10 games would be more profitable with Conte removed from the equation.
Conte arrived at Spurs in November 2021 with the reputation of a serial winner.
The 53-year-old won league titles at each of his previous three spells in charge of Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
Despite his success, the former Italian international’s time at all three clubs ended in acrimony.
The pattern is set to continue at Spurs but without Conte ending the club’s 15-year wait to win a trophy.
Tottenham were dumped out of the both the FA Cup and Champions League within a week earlier this month.
Conte has only recently returned to the touchline after a spell back in Italy recovering from gallbladder surgery and his patience ran out after seeing his side throw away a 3-1 lead with just 13 minutes remaining at St. Mary’s.
“It’s the right moment to speak because I think that after this performance, for me this is unacceptable,” said Conte.
“I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart.”
Levy under the spotlight
Conte was even more cutting when pushed on the reasons for Tottenham’s continued failure to succeed under a string of different managers.
“Tottenham’s story is this. Twenty years there is the owner and they never won something,” he added.
“Why? Because they are used to it here, they are used to it. They don’t play for something important. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress. It is easy in this way.”
Amid such a crisis it is hard to believe that Conte’s men still sit fourth in the Premier League table.
But they are just two points ahead of Newcastle having played two games more than the Magpies.
Liverpool and Brighton also have games in hand to close in on the Champions League places.
“There are 10 games to go and some people think we can fight. Fight for what with his spirit, this attitude, this commitment?” Conte said.
“For seventh, eighth, 10th place? I am not used to this position. I’m really upset and everyone has to take their responsibility.”
With the bond between manager and players seemingly broken, the spotlight is on Levy with 15 days until Spurs play again away at Everton.
Levy has not been slow to sack managers in the past.
Mauricio Pochettino was fired just months after reaching the club’s first Champions League final, while Jose Mourinho was dismissed in the week before the League Cup final two years ago.
“Conte wants to be sacked in this international break,” tweeted pundit and former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher. “Spurs should just put him out of his misery.”
But removing Conte will also attract more criticism of the record of Levy and the club’s owners ENIC.
Off the field, Levy’s two decades in have turned Tottenham into a financial powerhouse.
The club’s new stadium is the envy of Europe, allowing Spurs’ revenue to overtake local rivals Arsenal.
But to rub salt into Tottenham’s trophyless wounds, the Gunners are closing in a first league title in 19 years while Conte’s reign descends into chaos.