Transfer Talk: Five potential recruits for Conte's Italian job
Tottenham will have a different manager at the helm for a third successive transfer window in January as Antonio Conte searches for fresh faces to match his hard-working philosophy.
Spurs have been reluctant to make moves in the winter market, with only a handful of mid-season arrivals in recent years.
But if Daniel Levy truly wants his new Italian boss to push for that all-important Champions League place, he will have to invest in 2022.
Ahead of tonight's trip to Slovenia to face Mura in the Europa Conference League, here are five players that would provide a welcome addition to Conte's ranks this January.
Given his knowledge of Italian football, it is unsurprising that Conte has his eyes on some of Serie A’s top talent — and few are attracting more attention than Fiorentina frontman Dusan Vlahovic.
The 6ft 3in Serbian international has continued where he left off last campaign with 12 goals for his club and five for his country so far this season.
The former Partizan youngster is keeping opposition goalkeepers busy, averaging 0.46 goals per shot on target.
Spurs appear ready to match the reported £50million price tag for La Viola’s No9 but a stumbling block could be where he would fit in.
With Harry Kane set to stay in North London and Heung-Min Son such a crucial player in the Tottenham attack, Vlahovic might be reduced to a bit-part role in Conte’s preferred 3-4-2-1 formation.
Assurances would have to be made if one of the continent's most in-demand forwards were to choose Spurs.
Tottenham have conceded 17 times in the Premier League so far this term, with only strugglers Leeds, Norwich and Newcastle suffering a worse goal difference.
The key to any success that Conte has at Spurs will be fixing a leaky defence and the 52-year-old has eyes on some of his former stars.
Alessandro Bastoni, 22, played a crucial role on the left side of Inter Milan’s back three last season as the Nerazzurri won their first Scudetto since 2010.
Respect between the two was clearly mutual. Speaking early in Conte’s reign, Bastoni said: "Everyone had spoken highly of Conte and I’ve only received confirmation of how great he is.
"As far as I am concerned, Conte is the Messi of coaches."
Capturing Bastoni’s signature might be a tough ask for Tottenham’s sporting director Fabio Paratici as the cultured passer is signed up at the San Siro until 2024.
Stefan de Vrij
An easier option could be Stefan de Vrij with Inter happy to offload the Dutch centre-back and build around Bastoni and Milan Skriniar.
Spurs have desperately lacked an experienced head in their defensive line since the departures of Jan Vertonghen in 2020 and Toby Alderweireld last summer — a void De Vrij, 29, would fill.
The former Lazio man has been a consistent performer in Serie A since 2014 and was a trusted member of Inter’s team last season, winning 2.14 aerial duels per 90 plus an additional 4.79 combined possession regains in the middle and defensive thirds.
The pull of working under Conte once again, combined with the chance to play in the Premier League, should make this a simple deal should the two parties agree on a fee.
Yorkshire Pirlo Kalvin Phillips stood out for Leeds at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last weekend as he contained England captain Kane for much of the game.
The 25-year-old was deployed deeper than usual by Marcelo Bielsa to keep Kane quiet, a task he passed with flying colours.
It was a performance that will not have gone unnoticed by the man in the home dugout, who managed the Italian maestro Phillips has been likened to at Juventus.
Phillips’ hard-working and tenacious style would suit a role in the heart of Conte’s side but tempting him away from his beloved Elland Road might be a tough order.
With contract talks on hold at the Whites, this could be Tottenham’s best chance to swoop in and tempt the proven Premier League midfielder away from his hometown.
Tottenham fans were disappointed when a move for Lautaro Martinez, 24, fell through last summer as a result of Romelu Lukaku’s Chelsea switch.
The 35-cap Argentine has since signed a new deal after his £50m transfer collapsed but a similar fee might well tempt the Nerazzurri, who have well-publicised financial concerns.
With seven goal involvements to his name in Serie A this season (six goals, one assist), Martinez looks set to match his impressive tally of 27 last term (17 goals, 10 assists).
However, relations between Conte and Martinez were not always cordial. When the former Inter boss substituted the Argentine against Roma last season, Martinez reacted furiously and Conte was suitably unimpressed.
The matter was quickly resolved though, with Lukaku arranging a boxing match between the two and taking on the role of legendary MC Michael Buffer.
A strong and willing runner who can link the play, Martinez could feature alongside Kane in a two or in one of the supporting roles behind the Spurs talisman.
Securing a Ballon d’Or nominee would be a real signal of Conte’s intent and the chance to reunite with the manager who made him a superstar would surely be a tempting proposition for Martinez.