Bryan Gil and Pierluigi Gollini in, Lamela heading out – how Paratici has kick-started Spurs’ ‘painful rebuild’

By Charlie Eccleshare, The Athletic

Fabio Paratici has spent much of July alone in his hotel room only able to communicate with his family back in Turin via telephone, but this has been the week when the toil has finally started to pay off.

Continue reading “Bryan Gil and Pierluigi Gollini in, Lamela heading out – how Paratici has kick-started Spurs’ ‘painful rebuild’”

Tottenham transfers: Tomiyasu deal progressing but no Champions League likely to impede Kounde move

By Charlie Eccleshare, The Athletic

With the Euros finishing on Sunday, transfer negotiations are intensifying across the continent.

Continue reading “Tottenham transfers: Tomiyasu deal progressing but no Champions League likely to impede Kounde move”

Ledders in The Athletic: Dear Harry, you’re the best No 9 in the world and England captain. That doesn’t happen by accident

By Ledley King writing in The Athletic today.

Dear Harry,

About 10 years ago, when I was coming to the end of my playing career, the name Harry Kane was always being brought up. When you’re an older player you’re aware of the young talent coming through, and you were the one scoring goals at youth level and being noticed.

Continue reading “Ledders in The Athletic: Dear Harry, you’re the best No 9 in the world and England captain. That doesn’t happen by accident”

Hojbjerg: Denmark’s midfield ‘monster’ and emotional leader

By Charlie Eccleshare and Mark Carey, The Athletic

Crouched down, chest heaving, tears pouring out — Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s reaction to Denmark reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals was one of the moments of the tournament.

It came after his side had edged past the Czech Republic 2-1 on Saturday, and he was quickly engulfed by the embrace of his team-mates.

Continue reading “Hojbjerg: Denmark’s midfield ‘monster’ and emotional leader”

The players Tottenham should sign and let go to ignite Nuno’s reign

By Seb Stafford-Bloor, The Athletic

Pre-season should be miserable at Tottenham. It should be barbaric and old-fashioned and nasty, and it needs to sear the fat from this team’s flabby soul.

Continue reading “The players Tottenham should sign and let go to ignite Nuno’s reign”

Fabio Paratici – the story of the man who has hired Nuno and is Tottenham’s future.

By Charlie Eccleshare, The Athletic

Has anyone ever had such a frantic start to a job they haven’t even technically begun?

Continue reading “Fabio Paratici – the story of the man who has hired Nuno and is Tottenham’s future.”

Slogans, no fines and the Portuguese hairdryer: What’s it like to play for Nuno?

By Tim Spiers, The Athletic, 5th Dec 2020

He’s the most successful Wolves head coach/manager for decades. A man adored by thousands for overseeing a stunning three years at Molineux.

Continue reading “Slogans, no fines and the Portuguese hairdryer: What’s it like to play for Nuno?”

‘Once a mistake is made, there’s no way back’ – Co-commentary, the most unforgiving job in football.

By Simon Hughes The Athletic

“It is very rare for the co-commentator not to be trending on Twitter during or after a big match,” says Rob Nothman, a broadcasting coach with decades of experience.

For a period on Tuesday night, indeed, more people on there were commenting on Lee Dixon’s performance than that of Raheem Sterling, who had scored England’s winner against Czech Republic. In the first group game, when Sterling’s goal secured his country’s first victory in the tournament, Jermaine Jenas had instead been the focus of a very one-sided discussion.

Nothman accepts that co-commentators are “not trying to crack the Enigma code” but he stresses the discipline is a lot more complex than the majority of people think, especially this summer. Germany’s group game with France had viewing figures north of 9.5 million, which was much larger than any Premier League fixture during the 2020-21 season. “Domestic audiences are smaller but they are more informed,” Nothman suggests, appreciating the majority of viewers from August to May are ultimately subscribers and therefore have a greater commitment to the schedule.

Terrestrial television means a larger constituency of interest. Many of those tuning in will not have watched as much football. “The commentary team needs to include their needs,” Nothman explains. “But they also have to consider the nine and 10-year-olds and ensure they don’t feel excluded from the conversation, or patronised. It is very hard to satisfy everyone because the base is so broad.”

Nothman had been a radio commentator in an earlier part of his life before conceding he did not have a strong enough voice to reflect moments of great excitement. “Co-commentary is the hardest broadcast discipline for any former player because the public thinks it’s quite an easy job when it isn’t.”

It helps, he thinks, for any co-commentator to sound like they are enjoying themselves, “especially in this time where so many viewers are suffering profound hardship.” The team of Clive Tyldesley and Ally McCoist have been a roaring success for those reasons, a pair who know each other’s game like a good centre-forward partnership. Yet Tyldesley, who was controversially removed by ITV as their main anchor only last year, found himself at the bottom of another Twitter pile-on after he mistook an action replay for a Netherlands attack last Monday evening. Like Jenas before him and Dixon 24 hours later, he was suddenly trending for the wrong reasons.Jenas has received a lot of criticism during the Euros (Photo: Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Tyldesley’s mistake was easy to make because he was at the mercy of a television director. Most audiences have ultimately been as close to the action in the European Championship as the commentary teams. COVID-19 restrictions have meant each game has been watched “off tube” from a studio rather than on site. The pitfalls are obvious. If positioned inside the stadium, the commentators can see everything as it happens. Remotely, they are reliant on someone else using the appropriate cameras to reflect a moment of drama. Their angle is often a narrow version of reality, initially following only the ball. They can literally see what everyone else can see. Their seats are not better — they’re actually worse, because they’re expected to spot everything first.

From a studio, “they are at a massive disadvantage,” Nothman says. During the pandemic, “commentators and co-coms have often been sitting in the studio separated by a Perspex screen and praying they get the exact pictures they need in order to interpret and analyse.” If present at games, they have an overview but are also able to revert to the monitor pictures in front of them as back-up.

“It is inevitable that co-commentators especially aren’t as comfortable,” he continues. “They’re worried they might not get the imagery they need to be insightful and add value. Some of the criticism they receive is harsh because they aren’t working under the same favourably-weighted conditions as before.

“In these circumstances, you are totally reliant on the direction of the pictures,” says Terry Gibson, the Tottenham Hotspur forward turned co-commentator who has worked mainly on Spanish football, albeit from a reporting dock in the UK. Broadcasting companies would like to have their own cameras and match directors present at grounds but this is impossible, even at the best of times, because of a lack of space.

Gibson thinks more mistakes are likely to be made during the tournament because of the lack of an on-site producer. Usually, a producer will be talking into a commentator’s ear throughout the match, feeding him prompts such as observations, data and even ideas. Producers often have a rapport with the commentators and know what they are looking for. Logistical challenges and rights issues mean most European broadcasters this summer are using the same producer and the one-size-fits-all policy does not work for everyone. Nothman insists, “Without a producer, commentating is like receiving a package through the post without any instructions.”

Gibson dreads getting any of the details wrong at the point when a goal was scored. This has happened more than once, but most notably when it felt like the whole world was watching and listening. “It was the Clasico,” he says. “Luis Suarez had a goal disallowed. I thought it was offside but it turned out it was for a foul.” Again, he was working off-tube. The footage did not show the goal kick that preceded the flashpoint and, of course, a player cannot be offside from a goal kick. It was reasonable for him to assume a goal kick had not taken place because Barcelona did not have a reputation for route one tactics. “I didn’t sleep that night. I was getting hammered on social media all weekend.”

Sky’s Don Goodman was co-commentating on a Champions League game between Arsenal and Olympiacos in Greece from a studio in London when he missed Arsene Wenger getting sent off because the pictures from Greece did not show either the red card or Wenger retreating to the stands. “I only found out the next morning,” he admits.

Andy Hinchcliffe, another Sky co-commentator, compares such errors to his playing career. “Fans get really angry especially if you get names wrong,” he says. “You know when you’ve made a mistake. It brings the same feeling that I had whenever I started a game and had a bad first touch.”

Both Hinchcliffe and Goodman have been working at the European Championship and like Gibson, they spend at least an hour before each game discussing how to pronounce a player’s name with whichever main commentator they are working with. “If one guy is saying one thing and the other something totally different, it tells the viewer you haven’t prepared and you’re not really working as a team,” Gibson says.

As Everton’s left-back, Hinchcliffe learned from the club’s assistant manager Willie Donachie to balance assessments of his own performances, rather than – as he once did – draw conclusions from his worst mistakes. He wonders what it would have been like for a player like him in the world of social media, where bringing a sense of balance to any discussion feels like it is almost impossible. He does not have a Twitter account because he realises he is too thin-skinned. Only with time he has learned to only listen to criticism if it comes from a figure he respects. Hinchcliffe thinks the industry he now operates in has lost a lot of talented people because they are unable to do that.

He has never reached the point where he’s had a bad day and considered giving up but Hinchcliffe started speaking to a psychologist because he felt he was getting too much wrong. Only then did he realise the pressure he was under. It was greater than his playing career, with millions upon millions of people expecting him to get everything right all of the time. “As a player, there’s a chance someone else will get you out of a problem but once a mistake is made as a co-commentator, there is no way back.”

“Co commentators need as much of a hide as possible,” Nothman says. “They also need to accept that a performance will never be perfect.” If consumed by anxiety, the co-commentator is not going to communicate well. “He or she will suffer from a constipation of thoughts and nobody likes the sound of constipation.”

It tends to be that co-commentators prefer their work to studio guesting because they are in control of the mic for longer. The responsibility is far greater, closer to their previous lives as footballers. There is a duty to inform and entertain for 90 minutes and longer. It is a simple fact that more people watch the live games than the half-time or post-match analysis, even if that element of coverage is becoming more popular. There is a feeling there is some contradiction in expectations because viewers seem to want the same level of analysis from co-commentators as pundits even though they have far less time.

Some co-commentators have told The Athletic they have felt more pressure since Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville’s arrival at Sky. “They have taken analysis to another level,” says one co-commentator. “It is impossible to offer what they give in the space of time that we have,” says another.carragherCarragher prefers co-commentary to being in the studio (Photo: James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Carragher and Neville have raised standards. They have a rapport but they disagree with one another, bringing entertainment. They are well informed by their own experiences but understand the shifts in the game and don’t rely on the past. Both have embraced technology and are able to interpret data.

TV bosses are impressed by co-commentators who use their contacts to try to find out what is happening and weave information into broadcasting, like any other journalist would. Yet there is sometimes a reluctance amongst bosses to challenge the talent they are employing because it appeals to ego. “Players who think they already know everything worth knowing end up being the worst co-commentators,” says one commissioner.

There is a story of a former Derby County player, who turned up for the first time as a co-commentator and proceeded to watch one of his other clubs compete in a Champions League fixture on his iPad while he was supposed to be working. His lack of focus was noticed and he did not work again for the same company.

Gibson has always been freelance and he wonders whether the full-time contracts offered to former players with a higher profile leads to some asking less of themselves because the work is guaranteed and they are at so many games and therefore can’t specialise in the fields they know more about.

A TV boss tells The Athletic: “It’s getting harder and harder to show up with minimal preparation. Those who do get found out quickly by the people who have employed them, their colleagues as well as the audience. You cannot fool football supporters. Nobody knows more about their club than the fans. They will pounce if something is wrong. It means broadcasters have to be on their A-game all of the time.”

Hinchcliffe holds regular Zoom meetings with Lee Hendrie and Danny Higginbotham – other former players who now work in the same field as him, where they talk about their jobs, their responsibilities and their fears. Hinchcliffe was commentating on an Aston Villa game a couple of years ago when they scored an injury-time winner at Cardiff City. He thinks what happened next is an example of how a commentary team should work. Daniel Mann, leading, simply said, “Glorious” and let the images speak for themselves. Mann signalled to Hinchcliffe, telling him not to jump in. This left him with the time to think about what he would say next. “I thought, ‘Christ, the first voice the viewers are going to hear after this brilliant moment is me…that’s quite a lot of pressure.”

Carragher started his media career in a heated studio. He was wearing a nice suit and he looked the part. “It’s very hard to judge an incident incorrectly when you’ve looked at it five or six times from that position,” he tells The Athletic. “There isn’t the same luxury when you’re sat in a commentary box.”

He thinks residual heat has put a lot of former players off the role. “Your name will be trending on social media whether you’ve had a good or a bad game,” he says. “But it doesn’t even have to be a bad game. You’ll be remembered for your worst mistake. Nothing else will count.”

Yet he enjoys co-commentary more than match punditry because “you’re closer to what’s happening.” He finds it hard when he returns to a studio having been in a commentary box. He describes a funeral scene. “The energy you feel inside a stadium just does not exist in a studio, whatever the result,” he says.

The moments he loves most are the last-minute goals when a stadium erupts and it’s up to him to deliver a line to sum up the sight in front of him. “You have three or four seconds. I’ve found it’s better to trust your instinct. I’d rather be totally wrong than cautious.”

He thinks he has been able to deal with the scrutiny that comes with the responsibility because he has been used to that all of his life. Supporters always had an opinion about his performances for Liverpool and the wider public always seemed to have an opinion about the place he came from, as well as the way he speaks. He became conditioned to the spotlight and he is able to deal with criticism when he gets things wrong. It takes a lot to upset him.

And still, it sometimes feels like he cannot win. He covers a lot of Liverpool games because of his association with the club and if he gets excited because something out of the ordinary has happened at Anfield, rival supporters will say he has gone too far. If he is critical of Liverpool, their fans will point out he should be more positive. If he offers the same assessments of Manchester United, he will be accused of bias. It is important for him to have a long memory because viewers remember inconsistencies.

Goodman has a similar view and has shared some of these experiences. A Leeds United fan, he was a ball boy at Elland Road as a kid. Despite having plenty of reasons to criticise Leeds over the last 20 years, he has regularly received push-back from supporters, some of whom thinks he now has an agenda against the club, when the truth is far from it. Meanwhile, Gibson mentions his experiences dealing with the neurosis of the world’s greatest football rivalry whenever Barcelona face Real Madrid. Compliment one team and you upset the fans of the other, regardless of whether what you say is accurate.Don Goodman has been accused of having an agenda against Leeds (Photo: Adam Davy – PA Images via Getty Images)

Sometimes, the reaction goes beyond criticism. Karen Carney, for example, was subjected to sexist abuse for her comments about Leeds’ promotion in 2019-20. Like Hinchcliffe, Goodman does not post on social media but as a black man, he dreads to think what has been written about him on the occasions his opinion has collided with tribalism.

Whatever he has said, Carragher thinks it is important to stick to it and never to row back. He defines confidence as not being scared to make a mistake. He appreciates the guidance of the match directors, absent from the Euros, who understand what he expects as well. When the goalkeeper Alisson Becker scored Liverpool’s injury-time winner at West Brom, the cameras were already primed to see the reaction of Liverpool’s bench before he guided them there.

Carragher and Neville are willing learners. They ask questions of more experienced figures in the industry. Carragher thinks it is imperative that he understands the shifts in the game. A footballer’s suspicion of journalists means many do not bother reading about what is happening around them. Carragher is anything but dismissive. He ensures he is well briefed and absorbs new ideas. He has seen the loathing of others doing the same job as him at the direction of the sport in terms of new technology and data, those who still wish to be managers but instead are sitting in the studio. Sometimes he feels like telling them that’s why they are there. “You can’t just say what’s wrong with a team or a player,” he says. “You need to offer solutions rather than simply be telling the world what someone shouldn’t be doing.”

Nothman suggests that increasingly, ex-players fresh out of the game crave advice when they embark on a career in the media. “They are impatient and want to be better at it quickly.” He thinks TV bosses should not be afraid of telling them exactly what they want. Hinchcliffe, who has designed a guide for aspiring co-commentators called Gamekeeper, agrees that recently retired players are at an advantage because they are used to being fed lots of information, unlike players in the 1970s, ’80s and his era, the ’90s. He now wants to be known as a broadcaster who played football rather than a footballer who broadcasts. Having retired from the game more than 20 years ago, he has covered more games as a broadcaster than he did as a player. “Hopefully I’m still in a job because I’m good at what I do rather than because I earned seven England caps a lifetime ago.”

Tyldesley believes it is his job to set the rhythm of the conversation during any coverage and impose some discipline, to try to ensure it’s easy for the listener to follow what is happening. “The role of the co-commentator is to have a career in football and come back and tell the rest of us what it’s like: how you miss an open goal. How you execute a bicycle kick,” he told The Athletic’s Football Cliches podcast last summer.

Any successful co-commentator will take the professional standards from their playing days into their media career. For many years, Tyldesley worked with Andy Townsend, who – apparently – was furious with ITV when the broadcaster did not have a camera positioned at Anfield that showed definitively whether or not Luis Garcia’s famous “ghost goal” crossed the line against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final second leg of 2005. The television co-commentator is under greater pressure than his radio counterpart because everyone can already see what is happening, “so anything he does say should add something,” Tyldesley suggested.

Nothman defines the responsibility as “adding value to the pictures.” Gibson says the most important advice he ever received was “don’t spoil a game” by saying too much – mainly because, the more a co-commentator speaks, the increasing likelihood he or she gets something wrong. “Listeners lose interest if they hear your voice too much,” he says. “The game should always be the spectacle.”

Gibson says that while it is important to show a rapport with the person he is working with, it goes too far if a co-commentator is referring to a colleague by nickname. He thinks it is important to focus on the performances of both teams rather than just one. It is imperative to get names right, rather than calling players by their numbers or positions. New-fangled terms such as “high press” and “low block” are also avoided because “it’s very easy to sound like you know what you’re saying when really, you end up speaking like everyone else.”

Football matches are fundamentally defined by goals and this is where a co-commentator is supposed to earn their crust. When Gibson first started in the game, the commentator Jon Driscoll advised him to wait before saying anything — to allow the wonder of celebration take over. So many co-commentators had made the mistake of describing a goal before viewers had even seen the replay. The replay is the co-commentator’s domain and here, there is the risk of repetition.

The golden rule? “You can’t afford to take yourself too seriously,” insists Nothman. It is for this reason, according to those who know the industry best, that lots of viewers like McCoist — a broadcaster who does not divide opinion in England, at least, because he is a Rangers man and therefore impressions about him are not already formed about him before he has even said a word.

McCoist sounds as though he is enjoying himself. He’d make good company. He was a great player and a decent manager and this brings added experience and knowledge. He knows when to add levity, yet there are question marks about whether he would be serious enough in games that really matter. He can do serious, but he’s better at being not serious. “The key is finding the sweet spot in the middle, knowing exactly when to ease off and when to reflect the tension,” says one media insider.

Carragher was encouraged early on in his relationship with Sky by the producer Scott Melvin to give co-commentary a go. He did not have any reservations or expectations. His playing career had just finished and Andy Gray’s departure from the company had left a gap. Gray had not only been a convincing reporter but a fine analyst. Carragher has since formed the conclusion that a Scottish accent is as powerful in broadcasting as it is in management, because it can sound authoritative and lends itself towards storytelling. Carragher does not feel he has mastered the art. Perhaps there is a Gray or, if he does not seize it himself, a McCoist-sized space waiting to be filled.

New Spurs manager must unlock Lo Celso’s undoubted magic

By Seb Stafford-Bloor, The Athletic

Late last Saturday night, two old rivals rattled around in an empty stadium in Brasilia.

Guido Rodriguez scored the only goal of a dull game, as Argentina jabbed their way to a win over Uruguay, continuing their unbeaten start to the Copa America.

Giovani Lo Celso was a casualty. He limped off after just 48 minutes and while his injury is not thought to be serious, it’s badly timed, coming just days after a splendid performance in the opening 1-1 draw with Chile.

That game in Rio de Janeiro saw Lo Celso at his best. The Chileans were admittedly not quite at theirs, but his thrilling mix of drive and craft was much too good for them. He almost created two goals for Lautaro Martinez, he won the free kick from which Lionel Messi scored Argentina’s goal, and in the 68 minutes before being replaced, he played with purpose, poise and imagination — the qualities so often missing from Tottenham Hotspur’s midfield.

Lo Celso at Spurs has been a strange story. Signed by one head coach and then passed on quickly to another, he has produced flashes rather than form and now, two years down the line, is threatening to become another player for the fans to clash over; brilliant to some, injury-prone and erratic to others.

There was, briefly, a consensus. During a run of games towards the end of Jose Mourinho’s 2019-20 debut season, Lo Celso was one of the only true colours in a monochrome side. He had skill and acceleration, but he could also hold that speed, and one of the fonder images of a year best forgotten was his charge down the Turf Moor touchline, beyond and away from a small army of Burnley players, all left shaking their fists.

Mourinho always seemed to be a fan. His own time at Tottenham ended bitterly, but that doesn’t mean that he was always wrong – and he was right in his affection for Lo Celso.

He didn’t take to him immediately and made him fight his way into the side, but once charmed – and whenever available – the Portuguese treated him as key to what he wanted to achieve. Understandably. A quick-breaking player with plenty of skill and who made good decisions on the counter? He was perfect for Mourinho, and Lo Celso was actually one of the few players who was regularly praised during that period. When Tottenham made his loan deal from Real Betis permanent in January 2020, Mourinho was delighted. He said that executing the clause was “an easy decision” and, by last summer, the praise was only growing more effusive.Lo Celso has been asked to play many different roles in his two years at Tottenham (Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

In July, with the COVID-delayed Premier League heading towards its end, Mourinho was asked to compare Lo Celso to Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, a player Spurs had dallied over signing from Sporting Lisbon the year before.

“I don’t know anything about that, but if that is true, and if Giovani Lo Celso was the player that came to Spurs (instead of Fernandes), then I would say I wouldn’t change Giovani Lo Celso for any player.”

Mourinho was being complimentary. It wasn’t a comparison he drew, nor was it one he was encouraging, but it was a telling moment because that apparently binary relationship between Fernandes and Lo Celso ignores how different the two players are. Fernandes is a goalscorer and creator, Lo Celso is a carrier and a distributor. Each have more to their game than that, of course, and there is some overlap, but there are also significant contrasts.

The history of the Argentinian’s data profile is actually very interesting.

In 2017-18, his statistical Ligue 1 contemporaries were players such as Adrien Rabiot and Houssem Aouar. The year after, following his move to Betis, they were Athletic Bilbao dynamo Iker Muniain, Real Madrid’s Isco and his then-team-mate, Sergio Canales. Twelve months later, in the Premier League, his peers were Mateo Kovacic, Youri Tielemans and Tanguy Ndombele.

He’s chameleon-like. At different times, in different competitions, his output has been similar to the outright playmaker he’s often assumed to be, to the more conservative midfielders who nobody would confuse him with, and to the kind of carry-and-cut midfielder that lurks in between the two and which probably best describes him.

It’s part of the Lo Celso riddle. The obvious reason why he hasn’t yet been a success at Tottenham is that he hasn’t been able to stay fit. The second issue, though, is he has never been properly defined within their system or surrounded by the same players for any length of time. Issue one and two are clearly related but there’s definitely a sense that Spurs don’t quite know what they have and that, two years on, Lo Celso’s career in England remains in the experimental stage.

Mourinho mentioned this too. It was intended as flattery at the time, but it unwittingly describes a problem that predated his appointment and has now outlasted him.

“He can play everywhere. Everywhere,” said Mourinho. “He can play No 10, No 8, double midfield player… He can play on the right side, on the left. He can play everywhere.”

He can. All of those positions. Just not all at the same time.

Before Lo Celso arrived at Tottenham, he had a reputation for being adaptable and for contributing in different ways. He’s been a player of many personalities.

At Rosario Central back home, he was a fun and frivolous No 10, very much the ideal of the Argentinian playmaker. After a 2016 move to Paris Saint-Germain, his scarce minutes often saw him in a deeper position, scavenging tenaciously for the ball, but then using it well and with tremendous accuracy. At Betis, a different costume again. He was either part of a midfield three or an attacking midfield two, and he would borrow from his past depending on which it was in a given game. Pushed high, he’d flick, drive, scheme and score. But dropped deep, he’d pressure, pass and snap the ball through the lines and from side to side.

These changes of face describe a very gifted player. The trouble at Spurs, it seems – beyond the injuries – has been the temptation to use him as broadly as possible. In as much of the pitch and in as many of the phases. That’s likely why he often seems so unrestrained, and possibly also why his best moments are so contrasting.

For instance, any highlight reel from his time in England would be dominated by those long, driving runs, but he’s also this player, seen picking Paul Pogba’s pocket against Manchester United.

He’s also this one, shown getting his hands dirty on the edge of his own box away to Newcastle United.

It’s a sequence that starts with him screening his defence and organising the cover, and ends with him tracking Allan Saint-Maximin across the box and sliding in to snatch the ball away.

The instinct is to want to see him in as many advanced positions as possible, closer to the opposition goal where he can do the most damage — the Betis, Rosario version of Lo Celso — but then he’s also a player who can receive a pass from his defence in this position…

…withstand a high press, and then make a turn, run and pass which takes six defenders out of the game and springs his team onto the counter-attack.

Lo Celso’s signing may have been a response to losses further up the pitch and the anticipated departure of Christian Eriksen, but in his own half he can often resemble another Spurs predecessor, Mousa Dembele. He’s not as physically impressive as the Belgian, but his touches in tight spaces and capacity to pirouette away bear more than a passing likeness.

Data is not for everybody. In this instance, however, it’s an excellent way of quantifying not just the range of Lo Celso’s actions, but also the volume and the various contrasts. Over the last year, in all competitions and in comparison to players of similar position, he’s is in the 94th percentile for key passes per 90 minutes (1.77) and the 93rd percentile for shot-creating actions (3.54/90).

That’s an enormously valuable return and typical of a modern No 10. But he’s also averaging 25.13 pressures (96th percentile) and 3.4 tackles (94th percentile) per 90, while producing a non-penalty expected goals-plus-assists rating of 0.34 per 90, in the 94th percentile of a list topped by Kevin De Bruyne (0.78). Opaque as some of those terms are, they make a strong point about Lo Celso’s value and his relative worth in certain areas of the pitch.

Prior to his injury, he was playing as part of a midfield three for Argentina, alongside the aggressive Rodrigo De Paul and the combative Rodriguez. That seems a fairly consistent role, but — to date — Tottenham haven’t shown that they understand quite how to package his abilities. Lo Celso started just 15 games in the Premier League and Europa League last season, and did so in five roles. Those were also appearances in a team without any certainty, within which only four players could ever be sure of selection.

So, Lo Celso has joined Spurs at a time when they are tenuous in concept. Little surprise, then, that his best moments have often been spontaneous and reactionary. Once in a while, he has produced something which is the extension of a tactical plan — the goal against Manchester City last November, for instance — but more often he’s been good in quite a random way. With a run, a tackle and burst; a riff, basically.

The challenge is to formalise that value somehow. To manage it and to allow it to flourish without it seeming like it’s coming at the cost of something else.

That’s why part of the conversation around Spurs is likely wrong. They have some pressing needs — a right-back, a centre-half, a head coach — but they also have some extravagantly talented players who they haven’t made anything like the best use of. When they fill these gaps in their side over the coming weeks, then, it should be with that in mind — with the need to create the right conditions at the forefront.

What kind of right-back would give Lo Celso licence to move up and back in the midfield corridor?

What kind of centre-half would equip him with the type of possession he needs from deep?

If he and Ndombele are to exist in the same midfield three, then what deferential protection is needed further forward? Does the Harry Kane/Son Heung-min axis need to be offset by someone more conservative, who can drop and cover space?

If so, is that a player already at the club, or one who needs to be found outside?

It’s a priority, because a midfield of Ndombele, Lo Celso and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg should be the envy of the league. Injuries have got in the way, as have other issues too, but never has that combination even threatened to be entertaining, let alone as effective as it should clearly be.

It’s a conundrum that needs solving, with Lo Celso and his many abilities so central to it that should really be part of the managerial interview process. Like a Rubik’s Cube left in the waiting room to befuddle the weak candidates, perhaps, or one of those lateral-thinking puzzles found in the back of old magazines.

Solve this and everything else should become a lot easier.

After all the mirages, The Search continues…


Graham Potter – Brighton & Hove Albion – Tactical Analysis

From January 2021:

Potter’s managerial style sheds light on a lot of Brighton’s strengths and weaknesses this season. Known to play an unconventional and progressive style of football, Potter is always asking more from his team. The underlying, most fundamental facet of his philosophy is adaptability. When he was at Swansea, Potter played ten different formations and the team ended up playing the most passes per 90 minutes in the Championship.

Something similar can be seen with Brighton too. Unlike other lower half teams, they believe in keeping the ball and trying to create fluidly from back to front. It’s pretty evident that the players have had intense training with regards to staying composed on the ball and looking for more forward passes as and when they have the chance to. Potter’s side have shown glimpses of this in a few games this season, namely ones against Manchester City and Leeds United. Although it has yet to excel, the signs seem to be convincingly positive.

As an adaptive coach, Potter likes to set up his team so as to match the opposition. Seemingly, in their last three league matches, Brighton have played a 3-4-1-2, a 4-1-2-1-2 and a 3-4-3 formation respectively.

Having said that, Brighton usually tend to use a flexible 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation, with their wing-backs playing a crucial role in both attack and defense. Out of possession, they defend in a 5-2-3, with the wing-backs dropping alongside the central defenders to provide defensive cover. If the back five stay disciplined and in position, it becomes almost impossible for the opposition to penetrate them. 

The reason why Brighton still end up conceding can be traced down to momentary lapses of concentration at the back. If their wing-backs get caught high up, it exposes the centre backs because the opposition can create chances in the time the wing-backs take to recover. This season, they have also been unfortunate at times with injuries to the likes of captain Lewis Dunk and Tariq Lamptey. Their absences have impacted them adversely, leading to a concession of more goals.


NB This excerpt is from a few years back

Espírito Santo is among a select group of managers who can effectively adapt their style depending on the opponent. It’s exactly why the top dogs find them difficult to take on. Remember, they bundled Liverpool out of the FA Cup.

Nuno’s system worked wonders in the Championship last season – they seemed a step too good for that League all year… It has continued to carry Wolves through the top tier.

The 45-year-old tactician favours the 3-5-2 formation. It gives Wolves solidity at the back with three centre-halves vigilantly guarding the backdoor and two wingbacks shuttling down the flanks. In midfield, Wolves are thick as thieves, marshalled by the intelligent Moutinho, who by the way is a stellar signing, alongside fellow Portuguese Ruben Neves. Not the point here, but who else notices the increasing number of Portuguese nationals in that Wolves team?

Nuno has somehow managed to build a strong partnership between his top two strikers – Diogo Jota and Jimenez have produced a combined 18 League goals this term. They’ve helped each other to the Wanderers last three League goals. 


Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag predominantly uses a 4-2-3-1 formation, having used this in 84.5% of games over the last two seasons, however, a 4-3-3 has also been used on occasion.

With an overall win percentage of 73.27% and an overall goal difference of +192 from 101games as Ajax manager. It is fair to say ten Hag’s philosophy has created an Ajax side that are a successful attacking outfit. 

Ajax build up patiently from the back with both centre-backs and a pivot creating a triangle, and engaging in a variety of interchanges between them as well as rotating positionally to build play and help break the initial press. This back three encourage the opposition to push forward and engage, opening up spaces in more attacking areas for them to play into. It is often the case in the Eredivisie where Ajax face sides operating defensively in a low block, so ten Hag looks to bring this forward. They are used to having large periods of possession in the Eredivisie, and have averaged 64.3% of possession in domestic games so far this season – a league-high, as well as making 582 passes per game.


Both Lukaku and De Bruyne have criticized the tactical shape Belgium has taken in the past. After drawing against Mexico in 2017, De Bruyne decided to speak out publicly:

“Mexico were tactically better,” De Bruyne said. “As long as there is no good tactical system we face difficulties. It’s a pity we have not yet found a solution. We are playing a very defensive system, but our team is filled with many attacking players.”

Lukaku has also said he would prefer a more direct style of football as well. Martinez has explained his system saying they like to be fluid from a 5-3-2 to a 3-4-3 system as it “helps the front players have with Kevin, Hazard, and Lukaku.”

Martinez is known for his possession style of play with a mind for attack, citing inspiration from Johan Cruyff. His time at both Wigan and Swansea was hyper-focused on ball retention, at times bordering on conservative. Martinez has gone full seasons never dipping below 50% ball retention. Harry Winks would be thrilled.

So, Oeufers, who is your preferred candidate for our real world situation (Levy, Paratici, current squad, lack of funds etc etc)…and why?

The most powerful move Tottenham can make now is to hire Ryan Mason

By Seb Stafford-Bloor, The Athletic

What even is the criteria for becoming Tottenham Hotspur’s new head coach?

There are no clues to be found in the shortlist, which increasingly resembles some kind of abstract riddle: What connects Mauricio Pochettino, Antonio Conte, Paulo Fonseca and Gennaro Gattuso?

Beyond being cast members in this summer’s north London melodrama, very little.

The Gattuso episode might be the low point of this saga. Within hours of it being announced that he wouldn’t be coaching Fiorentina next season after all, an agreement to join Spurs instead was reported to be close. Fonseca had been dumped at the altar and the club were preparing to run off into the sunset with… who even knew?

Nobody, apparently.

It turns out Gattuso was a far better footballer than he is a person. His archaic views about same-sex marriage and the role of women in football and his soft stance on racial abuse make it impossible for him to coach Tottenham. Today, tomorrow, or ever.

And yet the club didn’t see this coming. They were either unaware of Gattuso’s past – which is completely unforgivable — or they knew about his various attitudes and chose to ignore them, which is also completely unforgivable.

It’s only a month since chairman Daniel Levy wrote in the match-day programme that he is “acutely aware of the need to select someone whose values reflect those of our great club”, yet nothing that’s happened since supports that in any way.

Gattuso is just the latest contradiction. He’s the worst, but he’s only the most recent.

In the past month, from the coaches they’ve engaged with, Tottenham have shown that they’re not really tethered to style or ideology and that they’re not really chasing anyone of fixed definition. Either in the footballing sense or the social, and that’s a serious mistake.

Why? Because the last few years have proven the way a football club behave and what they represent are as important as ever. Winning will always matter and the game will forever be a muddle of injustice and heartbreak, annoyance and joy. But those aren’t really the determining factors behind supporter morale. They’re moods, not states, and the fluctuations between them don’t really affect what a fan feels. Not deep down, not really.

Instead, that connection is sustained by people and behaviour.

Does a club furlough staff when they don’t have to?

Do they try to join a new Super League behind your back?

Do they appoint a head coach you can not just admire but like?

These are the issues that matter. Yes, not turning up in a north London derby is awful, but losing your affection for your club is truly devastating — and Spurs are flirting with that disaster.

So, where to now with this endless search for a new coach and a new era?

A starting point would be to recognise just how much the person matters. That’s not to say that recruitment and performance and results don’t, because that’s obviously not true, but there has never been a greater need for a unifying move. The perfect appointment is one that would jolt the first team immediately into gear, restore the players’ lost confidence and, within the same introductory press conference, heal the warring factions in the fanbase.

On the basis that there is no such candidate, Ryan Mason should now be part of the conversation.

The obvious rebuttal is that he lacks experience.

He’s young, his CV is extremely thin at senior level and his brief spell in interim charge at the end of last season was proof of nothing in particular. Beyond the match days, however, there was plenty of substance.

Mason’s effect on the squad he took over was substantial. He inherited a group short on fitness and players who’d had their egos bruised. But rather than seeing him simply as an anti-Jose Mourinho, senior players were highly impressed by the technical standard of his training and welcomed its intensity. Similarly, while Mourinho’s tension had left the squad fractured and divided, Mason’s approach was more inclusive, more aimed towards a meritocracy.

At the time, the results he achieved seemed hit-and-miss. On reflection, though, aren’t they always when a new manager arrives — especially in the middle of a season and into such an acrid and uncertain atmosphere. Actually, he did quite well. The wins over Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United were as good as the defeats to Aston Villa and Leeds United were bad, and he probably shot something close to par.

Not that those few weeks were without contention. His decision to use Tanguy Ndombele only sparingly was a source of frustration but, viewed from a different perspective, perhaps that described a single-minded character – someone without convictions, but with definitive ideas which won’t just be compromised for the sake of playing to the gallery.

Maybe Mason was right about Ndombele. Or maybe he was wrong. What seems to matter, at this moment at least, is that he was willing to make that decision. He wasn’t being contrary or self-serving, he just evidently felt the most expensive signing in the club’s history didn’t suit his vision for what the Spurs team should be. That wasn’t an easy decision. It certainly wasn’t a crowd-pleaser, or one that would have endeared him to his employers.

So, Mason is tougher than assumed; he has managerial qualities. Of course, that’s not the same as saying he is now a fully-formed manager or that – added up – these tiny anecdotes make any kind of compelling case. But this is not a hobbyist ex-player filling his time, nor is this just a likeable character existing on goodwill alone.

Mason has spent three years completing his qualifications and preparing himself for a new career after a forced early retirement as a player. He’s well thought of for a reason and, while there remains distance between where he is now and where he may want to go in the future, it’s not a surprise that interest in him is being piqued beyond Tottenham.

Would it be such a bad move to give him the job full-time? In normal times, it would be too soon for a man who only turned 30 last weekend. It would be bold and reckless and impulsive. But these are not normal times and, in any case, the club are already compromising on their ambition and their values, and continue to entertain candidates who are far less compelling.

Fonseca? Gattuso? Jurgen Klinsmann, who threw his hat into the ring live on BBC television on Friday evening? These are hardly coaches from the top of the game and it’s not ridiculous to suggest that, over time, Mason could at least become their equal.

So why not find out?

The most powerful move Tottenham can make is to install a head coach everyone, without exception, would want to succeed.

Mason would be that appointment. And he might even be more than that.


Tottenham Hotspur’s search for their new head coach has taken a sudden twist with talks ending with Paulo Fonseca and instead switching to Gennaro Gattuso.

Gattuso left Fiorentina on Thursday and that played its part in a series of events that saw talks with Fonseca, which were at an advanced stage, suddenly broken off.

Those in Fonseca’s camp told that everything have been agreed between Tottenham and the Portuguese this week.

On Wednesday, the 48-year-old’s visa and administrative work had been being processed for his move to the UK and earlier in the week Fonseca held face-to-face talks with Spurs‘ new managing director of football Fabio Paratici in both Milan and in Como to prepare for the season ahead and discuss potential transfers.

Fonseca then travelled for a short break in Ukraine, where his TV presenter wife Katerina is from. She told her Instagram followers this week that she had “butterflies in my stomach because the new page begins”. Fonseca and his family were preparing to fly over to the UK before the end of this month.

Then Fonseca was suddenly informed that that deal was off. There were believed to be some Italian tax issues involved in hiring the former Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk man but both sides of the deal claim that finances were not the reason behind the dramatic withdrawal.

It believed that the about turn is more to do with Gattuso leaving Fiorentina just 23 days after he was appointed there.

It is understood that Paratici is an admirer of Gattuso, who led Napoli to win the Coppa Italia in 2020 but was sacked this season after the club missed out on Champions League qualification on the final day of the campaign.

When word came that Gattuso could suddenly became available, and that proved to be the case on Thursday, that forced a sudden change in direction and Spurs broke off the talks with Fonseca and instead switched to the fiery former Milan boss.

Italian reports claim that Gattuso and Fiorentina parted ways due to a dispute over transfers with his agent Jorge Mendes having recommended targets that the club were not keen to move on this summer.

There is some talk in Italy that Fonseca could be in line to take over at Fiorentina to complete a crazy turn of events.

Tottenham have faced a mess of a search for their new head coach and it is now two months since Jose Mourinho was relieved of his duties in April.

The club attempted to get Mauricio Pochettino back to the club but could not prise him away from PSG.

Then they held talks with former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan boss Antonio Conte only for those to suddenly collapse amid what was believed to be unrealistic demands from the Italian.

Paratici’s arrival then saw the original list of candidates drawn up by Spurs’ technical performance director Steve Hitchen, replaced by the Italian’s and led to the talks with Fonseca.

Paulo Fonseca’s football philosophy has been shaped by three managers ahead of Tottenham arrival

By Rob Guest, Football.London

Paulo Fonseca’s attacking brand of football should go down very well with the Tottenham Hotspur fans if he is confirmed as the club’s next head coach.

Scoring goals for fun at times last season with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min at the top of their game, much was still made of Spurs’ style under Jose Mourinho.

Sitting back far too often and not killing games off that ultimately cost them dearly in the top-four race, Tottenham fans want to be entertained again given the wealth of attacking options they have at the club.

With Kane and Son hitting 33 and 22 goals respectively in all competitions last season, their numbers could well increase under Fonseca as he likes his teams to take the game to their opponents.

The 48-year-old may not be the top name the fans had hoped for to replace Mourinho but, most importantly, he fits the brief for the type of manager the club are after.

With all coaches having people they look up to in the game, Fonseca was asked back in 2018 to name his biggest coaching influences and named three people that will be very familiar to Premier League fans.

Unsurprisingly naming Pep Guardiola as someone he really admires, the Mozambique-born head coach also mentioned former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri as another boss he looks up to due to the football his Napoli side produced prior to his switch to west London for the 2018/19 campaign.

As well as the duo, Fonseca also waxed lyrical about Mourinho after making a huge name for himself in the game back in Portugal before moving on to the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan.

“I admire every coach that is brave enough to take the initiative and try to dominate and attack. And, of course, there are many, many coaches I admire,” he said when speaking at the Elite Club Coaches Forum in Nyon, as reported by

“At this moment, I can highlight Maurizio Sarri and Pep Guardiola as the coaches I admire the most because they are bold, they have their own ideas, they are brave enough to play their own game and attack.

“Now, we can’t forget that José Mourinho has marked a generation of coaches in Portugal and marked Portuguese football.

“He completely changed the mindset of Portuguese coaches and he’s obviously been a great influence.”

A player in Portugal before calling time on his career at the age of 32, Fonseca admitted that coaching is his passion and he turned to it before he had hung up his boots.

“I confess that I wasn’t very motivated to keep playing. I was more motivated and had been preparing myself to become a coach,” he added.

“I had a great challenge which was to try to be better as a coach than I had been as a player.

“I confess that my passion for my profession is huge. I love my profession, my everyday life, I love each and every minute of my job, and this motivates me a great deal.”

What has Levy Done Now??

By Alasdair Gold: Football London

Irony is splashed across Tottenham Hotspur’s search for their next head coach right now as their two month process nears its end with Paulo Fonseca now the leading contender for the role.

On one side you have the Spurs supporters who have expressed their frustration at the length of time it has taken to replace Jose Mourinho, who was relieved of his duties on April 19, and also called for someone to take more of the decision-making power off chairman Daniel Levy.

Both of their demands are set to be met with incoming general manager Fabio Paratici wanting Fonseca, but judging by the outrage on social media the end result is not what the fans wanted.

There is of course also irony on the club side, with Spurs now looking to appoint the man who was pushed aside by Roma so they could appoint…..yes, Jose Mourinho, the man pushed aside by Tottenham

History will decide which of the two teams got the better end of one of the strangest managerial swaps in recent years.

The deal for Fonseca is close, although not yet done, and this month has already shown that what looks likely to happen at the north London does not necessarily materialise. The reaction of the fans to the news may well also have caused alarm among the already under-fire Spurs hierarchy.

One person inside Tottenham told this week that the club had “chased dreams” in their managerial search since Mourinho left.

Spurs’ top choice and their biggest dream was the return of Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine was the reference point for their brief to find their next manager – favouring attack-minded, possession-based football, developing young players into stars and using the cutting edge sports science techniques introduced by Pochettino.

However, after positive talks with their former boss the attempts to prise him away from PSG proved futile. Real Madrid’s approach also washed up on similar rocks as the French giants flexed their muscles and stood firm.

With the Pochettino door closed, so Levy turned towards an old structure he has experimented with many times in the past two decades – the director of football role.

Pochettino is not believed to have been keen on working within such a structure at Spurs this time around, wanting more of a say in key decisions.

With the Argentine out of the picture, Tottenham turned to Paratici, the Juventus transfer guru they had eyed up in the past. 

His impending appointment has certainly caused waves within the club. Spurs’ current technical performance director Steve Hitchen – who has director of football duties – is believed to have been unaware of the moves to bring in Paratici.

The treatment of Hitchen, who is popular within Tottenham, has left a number of staff and players unhappy but the club are understood to want him to remain within their new structure.

All eyes will be on Paratici now though and what power he will be able to wield. 

His role at Juventus after Beppe Marotta’s departure in 2018 had been a bigger, wider ranging role than simply a director of football, more a CEO of sporting matters and it is a similar position that he is expected to take up at Tottenham.

That should in theory give him more power than those directors of football – with various titles – who have come before him in David Pleat, Frank Arnesen, Damien Comolli, Franco Baldini, Paul Mitchell and Hitchen, and struggled within the parameters set by the club.

However, many within Spurs doubt that Levy will ever relinquish too much power at the club. This is a man who by his own admission was constantly on site during the construction of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, micro-managing to such a degree that he was choosing what type of finish surfaces had in certain rooms and deciding upon the most minute of details.

One sign that points in Paratici’s favour is that the club dispensed with Hitchen’s shortlist of candidates who met the chairman’s desire for a manager who fitted the club’s “DNA” and the new man was given the power to decide who he should work with. The strength of a director of football structure does rely on the man at the top choosing the right fit for him as well as the club.

Antonio Conte, suddenly a free agent and someone who had worked closely with Paratici at Juventus, became the next dream but again it did not prove to be a reality.

The former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss did not fit the original profile Levy was looking for, but when one of the world’s most successful managers shows interest in your club, it would be folly to not at least talk.

After initial promising discussions, it became clear that Conte and Tottenham were not on the same page in their expectations for the club’s financial might this summer and talks soon fell apart. Conte had departed Inter in a similar situation and it is difficult to see how Spurs thought they could present a different project.

Paratici, who has already begun planning the summer transfer activity as well as becoming the key driver in the new head coach search, turned his attentions to Fonseca.

The Portuguese was not on Tottenham’s top candidate list in its original form although he was identified as a talented coach, but Paratici has seen enough of him in Serie A in the past two years to push him to the top of his own wishlist after the Conte talks failed.

Those inside Tottenham and within Fonseca’s camp believe a deal is close but is not yet finalised.

For the Spurs fans, following the failure to land Pochettino or Conte, the Portuguese has been labelled as an uninspiring choice, coming without the Premier League experience or sustained trophy success outside of his time in the Ukraine at Shakhtar Donetsk.

The 48-year-old, born in Mozambique, did impress at Roma during points in both his two seasons with the club.

In his first campaign he improved on their sixth-placed finish before his arrival to take them up to fifth in the table.

This season, at one point Roma were third during this campaign and seen as one of Serie A’s most entertaining sides but injuries hit them hard from March onwards as they competed in Europe as well as domestically and their season fell apart.

Roma ended up, like Spurs, finishing seventh in their final table. It had already been announced that Fonseca would be leaving at the end of season, communicated just days ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg against Manchester United, with Mourinho to replace him.

On paper, Fonseca does fit that brief Tottenham originally drew up and he is different in style to his Portuguese predecessors in N17 in Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas.

He likes his teams to play aggressively high up the pitch but with selective pressing in the right moments as they take the game to the opposition and he is believed to be a strong motivator who connects with his players.

This season, in describing the way his teams play, Fonseca told ESPN: “No, I don’t like playing deep and waiting for the counter-attack. Sometimes it can happen in moments with my team, like against Ajax in the second leg of the quarterfinal, but it is not my style of play.”

Critics of Fonseca have said that his team can be vulnerable defensively – something that will concern Tottenham fans after their own defensive concerns season – and the Portuguese said that can be a by-product of his style of play.

“I think [when we’ve had problems] many times, it hasn’t been because other teams created situations against us. It’s because we made mistakes, losing balls in the first phase of play,” he said.

“I think we paid more dearly for those mistakes than is normal, and that has been our biggest problem, because yes, this type of game that we play can be risky, but in the long run I believe it is successful.”

His players do appear to forge a strong connection with him. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who played for Fonseca at Roma and also under a certain current Chelsea boss at Borussia Dortmund, believes there is a comparison to be made there.

“”He is similar to [Thomas] Tuchel, he is trying to put the players in the right position, giving them the freedom to enjoy their style of play,” said the midfielder.

“I’ve had the best coaches in my career and I’ve learned a lot not only about the game of football, but also about life. Even now that I am 32 years old I want to learn, because I want to know a lot about football and about life.”

On Fonseca’s style of play, he added: “We play differently depending on who we face, especially when we have the ball. Sometimes we have to stay tight, other times we have to stay wide. It depends on the game and the situation. 

“It’s not about the position you start the game in, it’s about the space. We try to use the space to create opportunities for ourselves and for our teammates. The most important thing is the chemistry between the players, because if you have chemistry you can do different things.”

Even long-serving Roma full-back Alessandro Florenzi, who found game time hard to come by under Fonseca, said: “That’s something that’s fundamental for me, respect for people and their work. The coach was very clear about this.

“Fonseca is one of the greatest coaches I’ve had in football. The problem is that he might not like me in that particular role and that he expects something else from me. I have a great relationship with him and he clearly told me that he didn’t know how much space he could give me.”

Fonseca, who speaks good English, has previously admitted he dreams of working in the Premier League.

One key point for Tottenham and Levy will be that praise for the Portuguese from outside of his clubs often centres on him making the best he can from what he’s got.

Former Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini said this season of Fonseca’s Roma: “I like the calmness, the balance, the desire to always try to lead the games. Last year he had the ability to compact the environment with the many injuries. He didn’t manage to put his work into practice in full, but he deserved to be reappointed. 

“He’s a modern coach, he doesn’t focus on a single idea, he tries to make the most of what he has available. I still think Roma are very strong. They’re well built.”

Fonseca also enjoys developing younger players, having given Diogo Jota his debut as a teenager at Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira, and he has never been afraid of using younger talents at any of his sides, which could bode well for the likes of Oliver Skipp and Ryan Sessegnon next season.

With Tottenham’s finances hit hard by the pandemic, the Portuguese’s ability to make the most of what he has will appeal to Levy.

That Fonseca comes without the need to pay any club compensation for his services will also catch the eye in a week when the Premier League announced that Spurs and the other five English clubs involved in the Super League will collectively pay £22 million, which will go towards “the good of the game”, on top of their financial commitments to UEFA after a similar decision.

The fans are underwhelmed by the potential appointment, with many struggling to see how this potential new arrival will convince Harry Kane that his future is best served at Tottenham.

If Fonseca is appointed, it will certainly be a huge test for not only him to adapt quickly to a very different league than he has been used to, but also Paratici to make the environment around him the best possible in order for him to succeed with funds brought about through sales.

All eyes will remain on Levy though even if this appointment has been driven by Paratici. 

One hope to cling to for the fans could be that Tottenham’s managerial appointments in the past 20 years have been most successful when Levy has not got his man or that man he wanted has not succeeded.

In 2014 Pochettino himself was second choice behind Louis van Gaal only for the Dutchman to turn down the job. Years before him, assistant manager Martin Jol enjoyed success after taking over from the mess that came from the long wait for and then resignation of Jacques Santini.

Then Harry Redknapp hauled Tottenham up the table after the man Levy had controversially gone behind Jol’s back to get – Juande Ramos – failed in the Premier League.

Pochettino, Jol and Redknapp all advanced Spurs’ cause during their originally unlikely eras in north London and there will be hope that Fonseca can make the most of being down the initial pecking order.

Tottenham chased their dreams in Pochettino and Conte but the time was not right for either to return to London and the club and its fans must hope that Fonseca is the reality they require.

Who is Fabio Paratici and what Tottenham can expect from him

Fabio Paratici will soon sign his contract with Tottenham and Lorenzo Bettoni, Football Italia explains what Spurs can expect from the former Juventus director.

“Paratici arrived here as a lad and left as a man, above all as a winner.” Andrea Agnelli summed up quite nicely the path taken by the former Bianconeri director who arrived in Turin in 2010.

He followed Giuseppe Marotta from Sampdoria and, together with Antonio Conte, built one of the most successful teams in Italian football’s history.

The Old Lady finished the first season of the Marotta-Paratici era in seventh, missing out on a European placement. However, the Bianconeri returned to winning ways the following season.

And what a journey it was for Paratici, who won 19 trophies in 11 seasons in Turin.

He was first reporting directly to Beppe Marotta, the club’s CEO and the man who brought him to Sampdoria.

Paratici had played in Italy’s lower divisions as a footballer. He was a central midfielder but didn’t have a remarkable playing career.

However, his time in the third division helped him to develop a unique quality to spot talented players at all levels and at any age.
He is regarded as the man who was able to bring Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, but the signing of the Portuguese star is not the one he is most proud of.

“If I have to pick one, I go for [Andrea] Barzagli,” he said in his farewell press conference at Juventus, when he had to fight back the tears several times.

“He spent many years with us and he was massively underrated by many. We all know how important he was and what he gave to this club.”
The former Italy defender had joined the Bianconeri from Wolfsburg in January 2011 for just €300,000 and was one of the main protagonists of Juventus’ domestic domination over the years.

During his last few years in Turin, Paratici became a specialist for big-money transfers. He signed Cristiano Ronaldo for €112m in 2018 and Matthijs de Ligt for €84m in 2019. But it hasn’t always been this way. Juventus pulled off some of the best value signings in Europe during Paratici’s tenure. Just think about Paul Pogba’s free transfer in 2012, followed by those of Dani Alves and Patrice Evra.

He didn’t get everything right, but as he said in his farewell press conference, ‘the best one at this job is not the one who makes no mistakes, but the one who makes the fewest’

The Italian director is the right man to begin a long-term project. Again, during his last press conference in Turin, he admitted he gets ‘really angry’ when he fails to land the signing of some 15-year-old players. Which says a lot about him.

Paratici is not just a man to build ‘instant teams’, he is a director who cares about the future of the club he is working for and focuses on the club’s academy, trying to bring in the best players at any level.

Paratici is like a chief scout who is also able to wrap up terrific deals, but the environment where he feels more comfortable is on the sidelines of football pitch rather than an office.

During his first years at Juventus, he travelled all around Europe to watch games, but it wasn’t just the pandemic that stopped him from doing so.

In 2018, Marotta left the club and Juventus tasked him with keeping the books in order while remaining in charge of transfers. He always got the job done, but you had the feeling he wasn’t always at ease with his new role.

His relationship with the media has improved over the years, but we can assume he won’t miss talking to Sky Sport Italia or DAZN before every Juventus game. He prefers remaining in the background rather than taking centre stage.

He indeed had difficult times in Turin too. He was under investigation over false claims to the prosecutor in the Luis Suarez case, which was a mess from the very beginning.

The at-the-time Barcelona striker offered his services to vice president Pavel Nedved, but it was Paratici who carried out talks with his agent and with Barcelona and when the deal seemed close, he found out the Uruguayan’s EU work permit in Spain was not valid in Italy, so the striker needed to take a citizenship exam prior to moving to Turin.

The story became a proper scandal as the rector and some professors of the University of Perugia, where Suarez took his exam, were already under investigation for different reasons and had their phones tapped. Therefore, investigators immediately found out Suarez had known the questions in advance.

However, Juventus President Agnelli ruled out Paratici is leaving the club because of the consequences of the scandal.

Paratici was also fined three times for disrespecting referees in 2020-21 and had had arguments with former Juventus’ CEO Beppe Marotta who, back in May, admitted being on very good terms with Juventus directors, except Paratici.

Therefore, it is quite unlikely to see Tottenham sign an Inter player soon unless someone else negotiates in place of Paratici.

Perhaps, Spurs fans should keep an eye on Mauro Icardi who Paratici admires for a very long time. It was Paratici who brought the Argentinean to Sampdoria in 2011 and with Harry Kane on his way out of North London, you can bet Paratici will try to sign the former Inter captain to replace the England star.

Overall, Tottenham are getting the best Italian sporting director of the last ten years and if Paratici is able to sign the right players at the right price and build a solid bond with the new coach, who won’t be Antonio Conte, Spurs can hope to return to winning ways, just like Juventus did.

Antonio Conte holds Tottenham talks and is leading contender for job

Terms discussed with Conte, who quit Inter last week
Spurs trying to recruit Fabio Paratici as sporting director

David Hytner, The Guardian
Wed 2 Jun 2021 15.41 BST

Tottenham have opened talks with Antonio Conte about becoming their manager. Daniel Levy has overseen an extensive search to secure a permanent successor to José Mourinho, which has not been without its frustrations, and Conte is now considered to be the leading contender.

Levy has discussed personal terms with Conte, who left his job as the manager of Internazionale last Wednesday, three and a half weeks after leading the club to their first Serie A title in 11 years.

Spurs are also trying to recruit the former Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici as Levy considers going back to a two-tier management structure, raising questions over the future of Steve Hitchen, effectively the head of recruitment. Levy has previously employed Damien Comolli, Frank Arnesen and David Pleat in the role of sporting director.

Juventus announced last Wednesday that Paratici’s contract would not be renewed, ushering him away after 11 years. Conte worked with him between 2011 and 2014 when he won three Serie A titles with Juventus.

Conte, who won the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017, would be an exciting appointment, if a little at odds with the profile of manager Levy has prioritised. There is scepticism in some quarters as to whether a deal will be concluded.

Conte left Inter because he was unhappy at their plan to sell about €80m of players to plug holes in their balance sheet. He had wanted backing for signings and a greater chance to build on his title win. The 51-year-old would reasonably expect to be offered something similar by Levy but it is unclear where the money would come from, with Spurs having suffered big losses recently.

Levy wrote in his end-of-season programme notes that he wanted a manager whose “values reflect those of our great club and return [the team] to playing football with the style for which we are known – free-flowing, attacking and entertaining – whilst continuing to embrace our desire to see young players flourish from our academy alongside experienced talent”.

In many respects, the template was a figure in the mould of Mauricio Pochettino, the manager before Mourinho, who worked wonders on a relatively small budget, developing a host of young players as he secured Champions League qualification in four successive seasons.

Pochettino joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and Levy has explored the possibility of bringing him back. PSG have indicated they are not willing to let him leave; he has a further two years on his contract.

Levy has previously spoken to Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, who remains a contender, despite his club having triggered a one-year extension to his deal. Hansi Flick was also in the frame, only for him to leave Bayern Munich and agree to take over from Joachim Löw as the Germany manager after Euro 2020. And there have been talks with Ralf Rangnick, believed to be over a director’s position. Spurs’ interest in Julian Nagelsmann and Brendan Rodgers came to nothing, as the former went from RB Leipzig to Bayern and the latter said he was committed to Leicester.

The Sting

A Brief Interlude

Brentford are taking over the bloeug today due to the incontrovertible fact that they are our my/your/second team. *

Brentford FC Logo

Nine times Brentford have tried and failed to gain promotion via the play-offs either to tier one, two or three of the great English football pyramid and nine times they have failed. Today against Swansea, the 10th time, must be the one where they finally crack it as it starts in a one!

1946-47 was the last time the Bees graced the top tier in the old first division, the first season after the Second World War. They’ve bobbed about interminably between the old fourth division and the new Championship ever since, and of late they’ve made a couple of real tries at breaking back into the top level falling to Middlesbrough in 2014/15 and Fulham in 2019/20. They’ve been preparing diligently for their inevitable seat at the top table with the building of the new 20,000 capacity Brentford Community Stadium replacing the grand old Griffin Park which was famous for being the last stadium to have a pub at each corner.

The 17,250 seat Brentford Commuunity Stadium

Between two of those pubs their is a little two-up two down at 50 Braemar Road; a modest abode where I lived very briefly in the mid-70s with my mum my parents separation.

The 12,300 seat Griffin Park Stadium. Our lil ol’ house was roughy where the arrow indicates!

Brentford became my second team after the mighty Lilywhites as a result and it was great seeing both clubs getting promoted in the 1977/78 season. It would be greater still to have the Bees hosting Spurs on their patch in the same division for the first time in my life.


K/O 3pm!

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Harry Kane: The factors that will decide Tottenham transfer saga

By Miguel Delaney, The Independant.

To get a sense of the kind of stance Harry Kane is facing, it is worth knowing Daniel Levy’s approach to one of the first major deals he was responsible for. It was, of course, a sale.

Michael Carrick was in a similar position to Kane in the summer of 2006 and felt that he needed to leave Tottenham Hotspur to fulfil his talent. In the end, the midfielder became so frustrated with Levy’s obstructive responses to Manchester United that he decided to call the Spurs chairman himself. The repeated message back was simple. “Well, they need to pay the money,” Levy said.

“It was all about the money for Daniel, just driving the price up and up,” Carrick wrote in his autobiography. “Arguing with Daniel was pointless. I would have got more joy talking to a brick wall.”

Carrick appealed again, and got the same response again. “Well, they need to pay the money.”

With Kane, it is now believed around the club that money “starts with a two”. Numerous sources say Levy would want at least £200m to even consider selling. That’s how important Kane is to the club. That’s the value of his goals, right down to how much they improve chances of regular Champions League qualification. It is way beyond even Gareth Bale in 2013. It is almost simple maths. But it isn’t that simple a situation.null

Levy’s stance isn’t as sure-footed as it was in any of his previous big sales. Tottenham are still paying off a £1.2bn stadium, having also taken out a government loan. Some financial figures around the game feel the club are in a much more stretched economic position than is perceived, “the worst of the big six”.

They still don’t have a manager. The squad is in need of a refresh. That was true when Mauricio Pochettino left, and one reason for his final-season downturn. The tough reality to consider is that a significant sale could instantly solve a few problems – even if it comes with other costs of its own.

A squad without Kane may even affect that manager search. Some figures at the club are now seriously suggesting it could be worth returning to Pochettino. There is a feeling that he has found the nature of Paris Saint-Germain more of a headache to manage than expected, and may be open to it. Levy also feels the need for an exciting appointment, as a gesture to unhappy supporters as much as anything.

It says something, however, that not even Pochettino’s appointment would change Kane’s thinking. He now desperately wants to go. One of the juncture points in this entire saga, however, is how desperately any potential buyer wants him.

All would love him in the team, of course. That goes without saying. Chelsea are said to be the most willing buyers, but are aware of the political problems with any deal. Manchester City are preparing a proposal. United are monitoring the situation.

A problem, unlike pretty much all previous big Spurs sales, is that it’s not like the buyers are behaving like David Gill with Carrick in 2006 and telling Kane “we’re not going to run away”. They’re perfectly prepared to walk away.

The current United don’t have the same need for a striker since Edison Cavani re-signed, and will prioritise other positions. Chelsea and City are both prioritising Erling Haaland. Kane is not first choice for either, because of his age, against that six-year contract.null

The uncomfortable truth for the striker is that it just doesn’t make that much sense in the modern market to pay that much for a player about to turn 28. They’d love him in their team, but not at that price, at that age. The market has significantly changed. There’s still too much of a huge gap between what any buyer would pay and what Levy would want.

It is why it remains remarkable that Kane signed that six-year deal. Many football representatives believe it is even more remarkable – and actually “staggering” – that he has not appointed one of the “super agents” to get this over the line. Using a figure with real leverage, who Spurs could greatly benefit from being owed favours from, could make an immense difference to the deal. It would certainly go further than fanciful notions about gentlemen’s agreements.

Spurs also know that Kane isn’t a “natural rebel”. He would be highly unlikely to invoke the Webster ruling, which could make things very messy. “If Spurs say no,” one source wonders, “what is he going to do? They know he’ll do nothing, other than stay and score 25 goals again next season.”


As appealing – and almost inevitable – as that sounds for Spurs, it is somewhat undercut by the same logic that may ultimately see buyers walk away.

Even before you get to the specific financial situation at White Hart Lane, there is at least a fair argument that selling Kane is the intelligent move – one that even makes more business sense for Levy. There is an inherent risk to a club anchoring so much of their medium-term future to a player in their late 20s.

They could drop off form. They could get injured. They might very quickly lose value. Some coaches have privately noted how Kane’s scoring has dropped off after the hour-mark of games this season, although that may have as much to do with the questions over Spurs’ conditioning under Jose Mourinho. That situation alone shows how quickly things can change.

This may be a rare chance to bring the funding that allows an overhaul, that can see Spurs become the fluid and smart club that it had looked for so long at the start of Pochettino’s time.

In the modern market, the most logical move of all may be to sell Kane for over £100m, and bring in a series of players under the age of 24 – that also allow a more fluid game. A fair counter-argument to that is what happened in 2013, and questions over the club’s recruitment.

Then again, they have brought in some good young players, and had earmarked Ruben Dias before he went to City. Some around the game feel the only realistic possibility for a sale is a buyer offering £100m and a “significant” player in return.

There are fair questions about what City or Chelsea player, say, would want to go to Spurs right now. That alone is why Levy’s stance isn’t as strong as usual. There are, for once, bigger factors in this whole saga than just paying the money.

And it Can’t Come Quickly Enough…

Levy awoke before dawn. He put his boots on. He snapped the key to the ancient trophy cabinet. And he sloped on down Tottenham High Road…

So yet another season ends at yet another crossroads, following more lows than highs and leaving more questions than answers. Like just about every club on the planet, ever, we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again, but it does seem to have been an over-common and over-recurring theme in all the years I’ve been enduring an allegiance to Spurs.

Continue reading “And it Can’t Come Quickly Enough…”