Antonio Conte set to depart as Højbjerg laments lack of communication

  • Ryan Mason is a contender for interim role at Tottenham
  • Sporting’s Amorim among possible managerial targets

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg says he wishes that Antonio Conte had been more open and “precise” in his communication with the Tottenham squad as he reflected on the manager’s outburst which has made his position untenable and set the wheels in motion for his sacking.

Conte laid into the players after Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Southampton, calling them “selfish” and questioning their mentality, the frustrations that have simmered during an erratic season boiling over in spectacular fashion. Spurs have started to check the market for Conte’s successor and are making plans for his immediate departure. Previously, he had been expected to leave at the end of the season upon the expiry of his contract.

The most likely short-term solution is that Ryan Mason, who is on the coaching staff, steps up as a caretaker until the end of the season. He did the same after Jose Mourinho’s dismissal in April 2021, losing the League Cup final but winning four of his six league games for a seventh place finish and Europa Conference League qualification.

For the permanent post, RúbenAmorim has his admirers on the Spurs board, although – as with others – the Sporting manager might be difficult to prise away at this stage of the season, particularly as he has a Europa League quarter-final against Juventus coming up in mid-April. Amorim would be interested in the role and expensive to recruit. His release clause is currently €20m. It would drop to €15m in the summer.

Vincent Kompany, who has Burnley on the brink of promotion back into the Premier League from the Championship, is also of interest – together with a host of others. They include Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel, Luis Enrique and Roberto De Zerbi. Højbjerg became the first Spurs player to speak in public about the unfolding crisis. His tone was sympathetic towards Conte, a manager who has been good for him, but he did suggest he ought to have explained himself more clearly to the players. It is understood that many of Højbjerg’s teammates would be happy if Conte was to leave.

“I understand that if you want to be successful as a team you need 11 men who are committed to a project and a culture,” Højbjerg said, as he prepared for Denmark’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Finland and Kazakhstan. “But I think he has to elaborate on how he feels before you as a player can start measuring and weighing.”

Asked if Conte was right to launch his tirade, Højbjerg said: “Fortunately, I am not the one to judge it. If that’s how he sees it, then you have to be a little more precise in order for you as a player to take it to heart.

“But it is clear that you work with each other every day, you want the best for each other, and you want to be successful together. And sometimes the waves go high in football.”

Spurs have endured a series of demoralising defeats since the restart after the World Cup, most recently the Champions League last-16 exit against Milan and the FA Cup defeat at Sheffield United.

The dropped points late on at Southampton – Spurs had been 3-1 up with 13 minutes to play – felt like the final straw for Conte.

Højbjerg said: “We’ve all seen it – it was a very honest and very open press conference he gave. It is because he is not satisfied. You don’t do that if you’ve reached the quarter-final of the Champions League and if you’re in the semi-final of the FA Cup.

“The coach has not been satisfied and that is what I will take with me. You do what you can to please him. What I do know about myself is that I am an honest player. I am a player who always gives 100% of myself for the team.”


David Hytner

The GuardianTramp

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