Conte lauds duo who will be the ‘present and future’ for Tottenham; vows to ‘contribute’ from touchline
Antonio Conte has vowed that he will be fighting fit from the touchline later this week to help Tottenham to get through their current tricky period.
Spurs suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie on Tuesday night. This came after their 4-1 defeat at Leicester City over the weekend.
Conte has admitted that he has not fully recovered after having gallbladder surgery two weeks ago but he was on the touchline at San Siro.
The Italian, who has been wearing a post-operative stomach support, missed the win over Manchester City completely and took a more reserved touchline role at the King Power Stadium.
Conte, whose side put in an insipid attacking display in the defeat to Milan, is ready to return to his high-energy state in the technical area.
“Frankly speaking in the previous match I was completely out, I have just had surgery and after two days my doctor told me I couldn’t go, I couldn’t make effort,” he said.
“So in the previous match, I was distant from the pitch. Cristian (Stellini, assistant manager) was there replacing me and was able to share my ideas with the team, he really helped me out a lot.
“I was wearing a medical device in that period, but I was still able to interact in a fair enough way with the team, I was not 100 per cent for my physical shape but in the next game I will be fit and try to give my contribution.”
Spurs’ chronic inconsistencies this season have been against the backdrop of injuries to key men and they entered this match with Oliver Skipp and Pape Matar Sarr as their only two fit central midfielders.
The pre-match narrative was about how the youngsters, 22 and 20 respectively, would cope on their first Champions League starts but they allayed any fears with assured performances.
Conte was so impressed that he says he is relaxed at the prospect of those two and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who was suspended at San Siro, being the only fit midfielders for the rest of the season.
“I think that I’m really happy about the performance from Skippy and Pape Sarr,” he said.
“Honestly to play in this way in the Champions League and to play in the San Siro in this atmosphere, I think that normally it’s tough for important players.
“They played a really good game and I’m really happy. This type of performance makes me more relaxed for the future because we have to consider that we could finish the season with only three midfielders, Pape Sarr, Skippy and Pierre Hojbjerg.
“To have this type of performance makes me more relaxed because I know that I can count on these two players 100 per cent and I’m really happy for them.
“They will be the future for Tottenham but at the same time, they will be the present. I have to consider them important players.”
Conte, whose Spurs contract expires in the summer, was asked about the possibility of one day returning to Italy to manage.
While he is notoriously cagey about his future with English journalists he was more open to the Italian media, suggesting that he will one day return to the country where his family still reside.
“I prefer to live in the present, I don’t want to think about the future, but you perfectly know that as an Italian man and the former Italy manager, Italy is in my heart and Italy will always stay there,” he said.
“I will never exclude the possibility that I will be back here one day, who knows?”
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