Antonio Conte has left Tottenham Hotspur by mutual consent after 16 months in charge, the club announced Sunday.
Spurs are fourth in the Premier League but will not end their 15-year wait for a trophy this season after exiting all cup competitions in recent weeks as relations between Conte and the club deteriorated at all levels.
Conte’s assistant, Cristian Stellini, has been named acting head coach for the rest of the season with Ryan Mason chosen as Stellini’s assistant.
Chairman Daniel Levy said in a statement Sunday evening: “We have 10 Premier League games remaining and we have a fight on our hands for a Champions League place.
“We all need to pull together. Everyone has to step up to ensure the highest possible finish for our club and amazing, loyal supporters.”
Sources have told ESPN that Conte had grown frustrated at what he perceived was a difference in strategy with the club reluctant to commit to the radical overhaul of the team he believed was necessary.
This concern had been expressed privately on multiple occasions, but Conte could not hide his anger at the players after they allowed a 3-1 lead to slip at Southampton, conceding twice in the final 15 minutes to draw the game 3-3 just prior to the international break.
In a remarkable postmatch news conference, Conte launched a stinging attack on the players and the club’s owners, ENIC.
“Tottenham’s story is this: 20 years there is this owner and they never won something. Why?” Conte said. “The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stays here? I have seen the managers that Tottenham had on the bench. You risk to disrupt the figure of the manager and to protect the other situation in every moment.
“Until now I try to hide the situation, but not now because, I repeat, I don’t want to see what I have seen today because this is unacceptable and also unacceptable for the fans.”
He continued: “We are 11 players that go into the pitch. I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart.
“In my experience, I can tell you that if you want to be competitive, if you want to fight, you have to improve this aspect. And this aspect, I can tell you, in this moment is really, really low. And I see only 11 players that play for themselves.
“They are used to it. They don’t play for something important here. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress.”
Spurs will now look for their ninth manager since winning their last trophy, the 2008 League Cup against Chelsea.
Sources told ESPN that Tottenham held an interest in former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, who was open to managing in the Premier League after being sacked by the Blues in September, but Bayern Munich swooped to bring the German to the Allianz Arena before any meaningful talks could take place.
In doing so, Bayern sacked Julian Nagelsmann, who had previously been on Spurs’ short list prior to Conte’s arrival. Nagelsmann is likely to attract interest from multiple clubs this summer, with Spurs expected to monitor his situation.
Sources have also told ESPN that Brighton & Hove Albion coach Roberto De Zerbi is a candidate for the position at Spurs, as is Brentford‘s Thomas Frank.
Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is thought to be open to the idea of a return to the club, but it is unclear whether Levy would rehire the manager he sacked in 2019.
Asked by the Evening Standard in December 2019 whether Pochettino could return to the club one day, Levy said: “Why not? I don’t close the door on anything.”
Conte secured Champions League qualification on the final day of last season, but was unable to improve the club’s fortunes this term despite a summer net spend in excess of £100 million ($122 million).
Conte faced over a month out after undergoing surgery to have his gallbladder removed in February. He briefly returned to oversee Spurs’ defeats to Milan and Leicester City before heading back to Italy to focus on his recovery.
In his absence, assistant boss Stellini led the side to important wins over Manchester City and Chelsea and helped earn Conte a nomination for Premier League manager of the month for February.
Tottenham face relegation-threatened Everton in the Premier League on April 5. Spurs are currently two points clear of fifth-placed Newcastle United, who have two games in hand.