Nuno isn’t the anti-Mourinho that Tottenham promised
Amid criticism of the botched search for a new manager, Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy penned an open letter to the club’s fans. In that letter, he detailed what Spurs would look for when interviewing candidates to fill the vacancy with a number of names reportedly on the North London outfit’s radar.
“We are acutely aware of the need to select someone whose values reflect those of our great club and return to playing football with the style for which we are known – free-flowing, attacking and entertaining,” Levy wrote, suggesting Jose Mourinho’s replacement would be a very different sort of coach to the Portuguese.
Just over a month later, though, Nuno Espirito Santo was hired. This was after Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino, Paulo Fonseca and even Gennaro Gattuso were all approached. The whole process gave the impression of a club desperately lacking in direction and the ultimate outcome also underlines this.
Nuno is proven in the Premier League. While Wolves endured a difficult season last term, the former goalkeeper has managed to establish the Molineux club in the top flight over the last few years. He had earned the chance to test himself at a higher level, at a bigger club. For Nuno, Tottenham ticked a lot of boxes.
For Tottenham, though, Nuno appears an awkward fit. The “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining” football Levy spoke about in his open letter to supporters is unlikely to flow with the 47-year-old at the helm. In fact, Nuno’s favoured style of play has frequently been likened to that of Mourinho, the man he has replaced.
This isn’t to say Spurs won’t improve under their new manager. Nuno will put in place a solid structure that will make Tottenham a difficult team to play against and beat. The Portuguese coach also has a track record of trusting young players, something that does align with Spurs’ values as a club.
But the sacking of Mourinho was meant to be about more than just results. On the basis of Levy’s won words, there was a recognition within Tottenham Hotspur that the difference between Pochettino and Mourinho had been too stark. Spurs suffered footballing whiplash in moving between two very different coaches overnight.
Fonseca, while not of the pedigree most Spurs were hoping for from their new manager, would have implemented a more free-flowing approach. Graham Potter has consistently linked with the vacancy due to the attractive style of play he favours at Brighton. This hinted at Tottenham’s priorities in the interview process.
It’s for all these reasons that the appointment of Nuno jars. Is he really the best man for the job? How big a say did new director of football Fabio Paritici have in the Portuguese’s hiring? And how concerned should Tottenham fans be about the strong links between Nuno and super-agent Jorge Mendes, who could now flood North London with clients?
With Paritici not long in the door, it’s possible Nuno was the easiest possible appointment. Spurs wasted so much time in their pursuit of Conte and Pochettino that they left themselves with very few options. By the end of last month, with the start of pre-season just days away, it became clear Tottenham would have have to target an out-of-work manager, hence the links with Fonseca, Gattuso and ultimately Nuno.
Spurs have a number of problems to address before they can resume on the path that not so long ago had them heading for the top of the English and European game. Nuno can only address so many of them on the pitch. He might well do that, but Tottenham fans shouldn’t expect the anti-Mourinho. They should, in fact, expect someone who is more aligned with the Portuguese coach than the values of the club he now works for.
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