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Manchester United might have won the battle on Saturday but it may well be that Tottenham have won the war. In emerging from what was cruelly termed El Sackico with the clarity of thought to part ways with Nuno Espirito Santo and appoint Antonio Conte, Spurs have brought themselves more hope for medium-term success.

After all, wouldn't you rather have one of the best managers in the game than three points? That is what Tottenham have now. In the summer, he was one of several to take a long hard look at the situation in north London and decide not to take the plunge.

A deal may have come together very quickly after Nuno's sacking but sources have told CBS Sports that initial contact with those close to Conte had been made prior to Saturday's thumping 3-0 loss with Spurs broaching the question as to whether the Italian had changed his mind since turning down Tottenham in the summer. Once supporters turned on the current manager it was clear change had to come. In a sense the defeat to United only strengthened Tottenham's hand. Whilst the powers that be continue to prevaricate both over whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should go and who should replace him, Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici were able to offer Conte a clear route back into the best league in the world.

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Not only are Tottenham upgrading in their own dugout, they are robbing rivals of the most obvious top-tier candidate on the market right now. There had been interest from Conte in the Manchester United job; Spurs' defeat coupled with mixed signals coming out of Old Trafford would suggest that Tottenham are on course to win that particular battle.

The very loud debate around Solskjaer's future after United's 5-0 loss to Liverpool did seem to crystallize a curious view of Conte as the man to succeed him. He is not one to build for the future, he is someone who could fall out with the most shy and retiring of executives, he can only coach to a specific, defensive tactic. This is a manager who spends all your money and leaves your squad in tatters. Perhaps even he would admit that there is a scintilla of truth to some of these suggestions, but the most crucial stereotype is this: Wherever Conte goes, he swiftly and significantly exceeds expectations.

Indeed, one might argue that he is as near to a guarantor of silverware as is available to a club like Tottenham. Discount his exceptional work with Italy -- where of course the international game allows for far fewer winners -- and he has won the title or promotion in five of his last six jobs. Conte is, his former player's would attest, a winner first and foremost.

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Romelu Lukaku established himself as one of world football's finest strikers under the Italian at Inter Milan. On joining Chelsea, he said: "[Conte] showed me what it took to win. To learn how to win is basically pushing the barrier. Every trainer has a different way of coaching, but with Antonio we really learnt how to go to the red zone. That was it."

That is perhaps the quality Spurs need most of all. The team Mauricio Pochettino built may be growing older and more disharmonious, but they would look significantly more youthful, energetic and melodious if they found themselves seriously competing for silverware. One need only look back at the celebrations that burst out of the Hawthorns dressing room when Chelsea won the title in 2017 to know how Conte can energize a dressing room. 

When the mood takes him, the 52-year-old shows a magnetism that enchants a whole club. In the season where he won the league, his touchline exuberance made him beloved not just by his own supporters but by neutrals. Even when he is palpably unhappy with how things are going at a club, he has a way of captivating audiences, though he may have taken it too far when suggesting Jose Mourinho might have "demenza senile." Still, his magnetism stands in sharp contrast to Nuno's refusal to talk about individual players, good or not.

That Chelsea side that beat Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino (among others) to the title in resounding fashion stand as the strongest denunciation of anyone suggesting Conte plays negative football. The Inter Milan team that broke Juventus' Scudetto streak last season are not far behind. In 2016-17, the Blues scored the second-most goals in the Premier League with an attacking plan that saw sides' overloaded by the width provided by Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses with three forwards inside. In the winter of 2016, they were the best show in town, slicing through Everton and the two Manchester clubs with explosive bursts up the field. Conte teams can play with the "free-flowing, attacking and entertaining" football that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy said was a prerequisite for any manager before appointing the conservative Nuno.

Chelsea did, of course, cleave to the back three system that has become Conte's relative default, though it is worth noting that prior to Inter Milan he tended to experiment with the 4-2-4 that brought him such success with Siena. Only when that did not work out would he settle on an approach that required a slightly less intense press from his frontline, most famously at halftime in a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal that proved to be the spur for the title triumph. 

FC Internazionale Training Session - UEFA Europa League
Antonio Conte in a training session ahead of the 2020 Europa League final Getty Images

"I think every team needs an identity and you can only have that if you focus on a specific system," he says of his tactical approach. "I find it easier for players to recognize themselves in a system if it has only minor adjustments from game to game."

A 3-5-2 system may actually be well suited to the players Conte inherits. Certainly, Sergio Reguilon will offer plenty of thrust as a left wing-back while playing three center backs (some of questionable quality) ought to offer Spurs more license to field Giovanni Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele in the same side. Up top, there are few partnerships with quite the same history of combined excellence as Harry Kane and Heung-min Son.

Kane may be the player on whom the Conte project pivots. Under Nuno, he rarely if ever looked like making good on his promise from the summer to be "100 percent focused on helping the team achieve success" after his dreams of a Manchester City move collapsed. Where once he used to drop off the front line to engage himself in play, now he does so because he seems to be drifting out of the action. If he continues to be the player taking half as many shots as he did last season, then there is a ceiling on Spurs' capabilities that is not in keeping with what their new manager expects.

Equally, Tottenham hope that working under a top-tier manager will re-energize Kane. Even if he wants to leave again, his performances will need to improve if any big club is to be convinced to pay a sizeable sum for a player who will be 29 next season and has had a history of injuries.

Strikers that buy into Conte's methods achieve a lot, whether they are already top-tier performers like Lukaku or altogether more limited players such as Graziano Pelle and Alessandro Matri. But they do need to buy in. In an interview when the manager was at Chelsea, Thierry Henry burst out laughing at the statement "if someone doesn't have a good attitude or behavior, I prefer to kill him." Conte kept going as if what he had said was perfectly normal.

When Conte does not want a player, they cannot complain they are being left in the dark. He famously texted Diego Costa at the end of the 2016-17 season to say the striker was not in his plans for the campaign ahead, a move which infuriated those above him at Chelsea.

"We [Conte and I] had problems off the pitch, but I think he is a really good manager," Costa said last year. "I have no hard feelings towards Conte.

"But to be a top, top manager, he needs to change the human side of his management. He is very suspicious. At a like, say, Real Madrid, he would never last a season."

That exchange with Costa set the tone for a combustible second season in which Conte bemoaned the players he was furnished with after missing out on Virgil van Dijk and Lukaku. In 2014, he quit Juventus because they would not sign the players he wanted to move the club to a 4-3-3: Juan Cuadrado and Alexis Sanchez. It took only a few months at Inter before he was demanding the board come out to explain his side's difficulties.

It was doubts over whether he would get the money needed that helped convince him to turn down Tottenham less than six months ago. This is hardly a squad that has been put together on the cheap but further investment is required if it is to seriously compete for a top four berth. How much is forthcoming without either Champions League qualification or a Kane sale is not clear.

Not that progress in the former seems to be a prerequisite for Conte. The only time he has taken a team deep in a continental competition whilst balancing it with a league schedule was when Juventus reached the semi-finals of the 2013-14 Europa League (Inter reached the final of that competition six years later but after the Serie A season was in the books). That may not be a problem, however. If Nuno's approach to the Europa Conference League is indicative of the club as a whole then they may not even stick around beyond the group stages. That may even be what he would want, a chance to drill his players in a system week in, week out. While title rivals battled on multiple fronts in the 2016-17 season, Conte found his system and got them on a roll that did not really stop until May.

That does not mean that appointing Conte is without its risks. If he is unhappy with Levy or Fabio Paratici (with whom he worked at Juventus), it will not take long for that to become public knowledge. He is not an "ass licker." His words.

It may get combustible. Perhaps that's what Tottenham need. Even Mourinho's time in north London was less sturm und drang, more a curious drift away from the footballing mainstream for both parties. With Conte the pressure, energy and intensity that fired Spurs to such heights under Pochettino would return. The players might not be as good as they were five years ago but the manager certainly will be.