Spurs coach with chequered history takes charge as Conte recovers

Cristian Stellini left Antonio Conte at Juventus in 2012 after being handed a lengthy ban for alleged match-fixing and lasted under six months in his only senior managerial role… but must galvanise Spurs again as head coach recovers from surgery

  • Spurs boss Antonio Conte underwent gallbladder surgery earlier this month
  •  The Italian admitted he returned to soon from surgery and is recovering in Italy 
  • Assistant coach Cristian Stellini will take charge of Spurs while Conte is out

Cristian Stellini and Antonio Conte have been together through the good times and bad. A promotion, a Serie A title win, but also allegations of match-fixing, suspensions and the loss of loved ones. 

The last six months has been one of the toughest periods for the pair. Poor form for Tottenham, but more importantly, in what puts the game into perspective, the deaths of Spurs fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone, Conte’s friend Sinisa Mihajlovic and his former team-mate Gianluca Vialli.

For workaholic Conte, he must now endure what in many ways will be a painful spell on the sidelines, as he hands over responsibility to his long-term right-hand man Stellini for a second time this month after admitting that he rushed back from gallbladder surgery.  

Conte is set to miss Tottenham’s derby against West Ham and could be out for longer after the setback in his recovery. Conte stayed in Italy and did not fly back to London with the team after Tuesday’s Champions League defeat at AC Milan to meet his surgeon for a scheduled appointment.

He was advised to step away from work and focus on his recovery and will remain in Turin with his family until fully fit to return.

Cristian Stellini (left) will take the reins at Tottenham in the absence of Antonio Conte (right)

The Tottenham head coach is recovering after undergoing surgery to remove his gallbladder

Stellini (left) masterminded a 1-0 win over Manchester City in Conte’s absence this month

Stellini has already had to step up and fill in for Conte following his surgery, which saw him brilliantly pull off a 1-0 win over Manchester City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

In 48-year-old Stellini, Conte trusts. Their working relationship dates all the way back to 2007, when Conte managed Stellini at Italian outfit Bari, in what were his final years as a player. 

Stellini also played for the likes of Novara, Spal, Como and Genoa. He even signed for Juventus in 2003, but a serious leg injury saw him feature only twice.  

In 2010, Conte became the manager of Siena, where he first started his coaching career as the assistant. And upon Stellini’s retirement from professional football, Conte brought him on board as his assistant. Together, they led Siena to promotion to Serie A.

Conte wouldn’t stay long at Siena, though, and neither would Stellini. By 2011, the pair were in charge of Juventus – Conte the manager and Stellini the assistant. Clearly, Stellini was the man Conte wanted by his side. 

But things went sour – and fast. Just 13 months after his arrival, Stellini quit the club, where he was working as the technical assistant, for alleged match-fixing. The probe centered around Stellini’s time at Bari.

‘The events of the last month have deeply affected me,’ Stellini wrote in a statement. ‘In a short space of time I went from member of the technical staff of the champions of Italy to a cause of turmoil for those I worked with.

‘Whatever the evolution of the legal situation I am in, I feel it is only right to show a professional attitude and release this weight from Juventus which fell on to the club’s shoulders due to my time elsewhere in my career.

‘I think it is right to dedicate all my time and efforts to clearing my position in these matters, which are exclusively about me and not those I simply shared a locker room with. I therefore tend my irrevocable resignation as technical assistant at Juventus.’ 

Stellini was handed a two-and-a-half year suspension. Conte, though having no involvement in the match-fixing at Bari, was also suspended during his time at Juventus.

Stellini’s working relationship with Conte dates all the way back to their time at Itaian side Bari

He later quit as Juventus technical assistant for alleged match-fixing during his time at Bari

The four-month sentence was given to him by the Italian Football Federation, having been accused of failing to report match-fixing in games against Novara and Albinoleffe while manager of Siena. 

Conte always denied these claims and in 2016 was acquitted in full of any wrongdoing. 

When Stellini eventually returned to coaching following his two-and-a-half year suspension, he took the position of a youth coach at Genoa before taking his one and only senior managerial role to date at Alessandria. 

The Italian side were then in Serie C, but it proved too big a task for Stellini, who was sacked after 16 games having won only three. 

Then came the reunion. Conte was appointed as Inter Milan manager in 2019 and the Italian once again brought Stellini in as his assistant. The pair led Inter to their first Serie A title in 11 years before departing in 2021. 

Interestingly, Stellini stepped in for three games while Conte was suspended during his reign at Inter, leading his side to victory on each occasion. Perhaps a good omen for any anxious Tottenham fans out there. 

It came as no surprise when Stellini once again followed Conte to Tottenham but, like the brief stint at Inter, he now finds himself in the largely unfamiliar position of leading the team. 

Stellini has taken the hotseat at Tottenham before masterminding the brilliant win over City, guiding them to a crucial victory over Marseille to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League earlier this season. 

Stellini was given a two-and-a-half year suspension before taking a role in senior management

Stellini, now 48, was brought in by Conte when he took the job at Inter Milan back in 2019

Stellini was in the dugout as Tottenham claimed a huge Champions League win over Marseille

But this is different. If Tottenham are to turn their season around, it must happen now. 

Man City and Arsenal are level on points at the head of the Premier League table, Chelsea have spent big and Conte’s future at the club is in serious doubt. 

Conte led Spurs to a remarkable turnaround last year as they clinched a top-four place, and another upturn in form – rather than another rebuild job – would be the ideal scenario for the players and fans. 

So, now more than ever, the Tottenham faithful will hope Stellini and his players can deliver – their season could just depend on it.

Source: Read Full Article