Their Fabio Paratici mistake has officially sent Tottenham into chaos
On Tuesday, Fabio Paratici urged Tottenham’s players not to be distracted by speculation about who will be Antonio Conte’s successor. Perhaps the wisdom in the warning was not restricted to the subject of the sacked manager. On Wednesday, their task is to not be distracted about the speculation about who will be Fabio Paratici’s successor.
Tottenham’s managing director of football’s 30-month ban from Italian football for the financial irregularities that saw Juventus docked 15 points was extended by Fifa. It now applies worldwide. It renders Paratici’s position untenable. He will either have to go or, at least, to step aside while an appeal is heard. That scarcely seems a short process.
Whether Paratici leaves Spurs temporarily or permanently, they are now a club in chaos. The man supposed to be supervising the search for a new manager is himself unable to do his job. Within 72 hours of Conte’s departure, Tottenham have made a false start to the process. Paratici was apparently an admirer of Luis Enrique. His opinions may be irrelevant now, any time he spent pursuing targets wasted.
Certainly chairman Daniel Levy’s plans are in ruins: the delay in sacking Conte, long after it felt he was eager to leave, looked an increasingly desperate attempt to hope he might stay, hold his tongue and steer Spurs into fourth. Instead, they have a caretaker, Cristian Stellini, no manager and, to all intents and purposes, no managing director at the heart of the structure.
It is more than two months since the Italian FA banned Paratici and more than three since his former Juventus colleagues resigned from their board so, while the Italian has maintained his innocence in relation to charges about artificially inflating the values of transfers, Tottenham ought to have been preparing for such an eventuality: instead, he conducted the interview with club media on Tuesday as a supposed picture of stability in the post-Conte world.
If it is evident Conte’s replacement will face a tough task, so will Paratici’s. His job was more strategic; if it was hard to execute a long-term vision with a short-termist manager like Conte, Spurs have a mish-mash of players, a squad constructed by confused thinking.
Paratici’s greatest triumphs came from raiding his homeland; in some cases, his old club. Rodrigo Bentancur, Dejan Kulusevski and Cristian Romero represented high-grade acquisitions. The Uruguayan and the Swede, both signed from Juventus when neither was playing regularly there, came for particularly appealing prices. The Argentinian was more expensive but Tottenham signed a future World Cup winner. Paratici’s legacy may also include Destiny Udogie, the defender bought last summer, loaned back to Udinese for the season and now due to turn up at Tottenham under a completely different regime.
Yet the reality that Udogie, like the January buy Pedro Porro, is seen more as a wing-back than a full-back may be an issue in itself. Most prospective appointments would at least be more open to the possibility of playing a back four. Building a Conte squad for a manager with an 18-month deal and ever less likelihood of an extended contract scarcely worked in Tottenham’s long-term favour. Nor, arguably, the lucrative two-year deal given to Ivan Perisic, whose best performances this season have largely been in a Croatia shirt.
Paratici’s handful of successes have to be balanced out by mentions of the failures: Richarlison, a £60m forward without a league goal and who wants to play in the positions usually occupied by Harry Kane and Son Heung-min; Yves Bissouma, excellent at Brighton and banished to the back of the queue of midfielders by Conte; and Djed Spence, dismissed by Conte as a “club signing” and loaned out; they cost a combined £100m and none have Paratici’s stamp as clearly as Kulusevski or Bentancur but they nevertheless contribute to a mixed legacy.
Paratici leaves behind a vast pool of players, albeit with too few Conte seemed to want to pick. It is in part because many were exiled on loan: he did not buy Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Sergio Reguilon or Joe Rodon, but he did not sell them either. Spurs are not alone in needing more quality and less quantity, but it is an issue for whoever is in charge next. They could do with a summer where they lose eight or 10 players, bring in four or five and add creativity in midfield, goalscorers not named Kane and Son, another top-class centre-back and someone who, either straight away or further into the future, will take over from Hugo Lloris.
Maybe, given how badly Spurs’ last spring and summer search for a manager went, Paratici could be no great loss. It depends on how much culpability he has for the misguided move for Gennaro Gattuso and the disastrous appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo. But if the sense is that bad decisions have outnumbered the good at Tottenham over the last few years, plumping for Paratici and then sticking with him until he was given a two-and-a-half year ban from world football could rank as another.