EIGHT days after Antonio Conte had torched Tottenham, they finally got round to sacking the incendiary Italian.They did so under cover of darkness on Sunday night, with a brief, embarrassed statement, on the day their greatest ever goalscorer had been awarded a golden boot on the Wembley pitch to commemorate becoming England’s all-time leading scorer.
Tottenham star Harry Kane may leave if the club doesn’t show directionCredit: Getty
And after Conte had detonated his stink bomb — claiming his players were a bunch of “selfish” individuals with no heart — the Daniel Levy brains trust has decreed that the best man to fumigate the dressing-room is . . . drum roll . . . the Italian’s best mate Cristian Stellini.
It might have escaped your notice but Spurs are still locked in an almighty battle against Newcastle, Liverpool and Brighton to secure Champions League football for next season.
And that several elite managers, like Julian Nagelsmann, Maurico Pochettino and Luis Enrique, are out of work and could potentially have taken charge of Spurs straight away.
And that Harry Kane has just a year left on his contract and is desperate to hear any evidence of a sense of direction from his beloved club.
Read More on Football
Instead, he hears of Stellini’s appointment and stories of Spurs drawing up a “shortlist” of up to 10 for the role of Conte’s permanent successor — begging the question, “How long can a shortlist be before it becomes a longlist?”
For several months, Spurs have known Conte would not be in charge next season. So some sort of succession plan might have been useful.
This is the second time in three seasons that Spurs appear to have written off their season prematurely.
Jose Mourinho was axed less than a week before he was due to lead the team out for the 2021 League Cup final against Manchester City.
Most read in Football
On that occasion, Ryan Mason was handed the caretaker duties and the former England midfielder would have been a more obvious candidate this time, given Stellini’s close friendship with the verbal arsonist who has just left the burnt-out building.
The ex-Genoa defender, 48, is a lovely bloke, very popular with players and the media, but he has a murky past, including a conviction for alleged match-fixing at Italian club Bari which earned him a ban of two-and-a-half years.
His only brief managerial experience came at third-flight club Alessandria in 2017, where he was sacked after three wins in 16 games.
Yet now he must scrap it out with Jurgen Klopp, Geordie Arabia and a brilliant Brighton side for fourth in the Premier League. It’s certainly a leap of faith.
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP DEALS – BEST NEW CUSTOMER OFFERS
Tottenham sacked Antonio Conte and replaced him with his assistantCredit: AP
Stellini deputised while 53-year-old Conte was recuperating from gallbladder surgery with mixed results, from an impressive win over champions City to a depressing FA Cup exit at Championship side Sheffield United.
Yet Conte was still in remote control from his sickbed then, now his chum is in full charge for a run-in which includes April dates with all three of Tottenham’s direct rivals for fourth place.
Stellini’s appointment for the remainder of this season is bad news for former boss Pochettino and the many Spurs fans who craved his return.
The Argentinian — a runner-up in the Champions League and Premier League as Spurs chief — would have accepted the job immediately.
So too would former Barcelona and Spain boss Enrique, a coach who favours expansive, attacking football and would fit into the To Dare Is To Do ethos, which Spurs sporadically claim to be important.
Nagelsmann, sacked by Bayern Munich on Friday, was Levy’s No 1 target after Mourinho’s sacking but was soon appointed by Germany’s dominant club.
Tottenham have targeted Julian Nagelsmann as Antonio Conte’s replacementCredit: PA
Still only 35, this skateboarder dude who left his wife for a tabloid journalist, is a colourful, tactically-intelligent, self-confident and abrasive individual, who would surely soon end up feeling the same frustrations about life at Tottenham as Conte and Mourinho did.
Now there is a (remote) possibility that Levy has a masterplan up his sleeve.
That an agreement for the summer appointment of Nagelsmann or a manager currently in employment — such as the Seagulls’ Roberto De Zerbi, Thomas Frank of Brentford, Fulham’s Marco Silva or Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou — is already in place.
But given Tottenham’s track record this is unlikely.
When Mourinho was sacked, they embarked on a desperate 72-day hunt for a new permanent boss — taking in Conte, Pochettino, Erik ten Hag, Julen Lopetegui, Hansi Flick, Paulo Fonseca, Gennaro Gattuso, Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub — before they stumbled upon Nuno Espirito Santo.
That was the summer when Kane was attempting to leave, as revealed in a TV interview with Gary Neville over a round of golf, when the England striker managed to stand over a birdie putt on the first green before spilling his guts about his frustrations with Tottenham.
Cristian Stellini has replaced Antonio Conte as Tottenham boss until the end of the seasonCredit: AP
Back then, Kane had three years left on his contract and Spurs were able to resist a £100million bid from City.
This time Manchester United is his most likely destination and a hefty offer would be more difficult to resist.
Kane studiously avoided journalists and dodged most of his usual media duties throughout last week’s international duty, knowing that Conte’s future, and his explosive comments after the tossing away of a two-goal lead at Southampton, would be top of the agenda.
Read More on The Sun
Now Kane, 29, will return to his club after an historic international break, and recognise the familiar stench left behind by another managerial firestorm.
The England captain will surely be booking another tee time with Neville, studying the jailbreak scenes in The Shawshank Redemption, or penning a more traditional transfer request before long. More