Irony is splashed across Tottenham Hotspur’s search for their next head coach right now as their two month process nears its end with Paulo Fonseca now the leading contender for the role.
On one side you have the Spurs supporters who have expressed their frustration at the length of time it has taken to replace Jose Mourinho, who was relieved of his duties on April 19, and also called for someone to take more of the decision-making power off chairman Daniel Levy.
Both of their demands are set to be met with incoming general manager Fabio Paratici wanting Fonseca, but judging by the outrage on social media the end result is not what the fans wanted.
There is of course also irony on the club side, with Spurs now looking to appoint the man who was pushed aside by Roma so they could appoint…..yes, Jose Mourinho, the man pushed aside by Tottenham.
History will decide which of the two teams got the better end of one of the strangest managerial swaps in recent years.
The deal for Fonseca is close, although not yet done, and this month has already shown that what looks likely to happen at the north London does not necessarily materialise. The reaction of the fans to the news may well also have caused alarm among the already under-fire Spurs hierarchy.
One person inside Tottenham told football.london this weekthat the club had “chased dreams” in their managerial search since Mourinho left.
Spurs’ top choice and their biggest dream was the return of Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine was the reference point for their brief to find their next manager – favouring attack-minded, possession-based football, developing young players into stars and using the cutting edge sports science techniques introduced by Pochettino.
However, after positive talks with their former boss the attempts to prise him away from PSG proved futile. Real Madrid’s approach also washed up on similar rocks as the French giants flexed their muscles and stood firm.
With the Pochettino door closed, so Levy turned towards an old structure he has experimented with many times in the past two decades – the director of football role.
Pochettino is not believed to have been keen on working within such a structure at Spurs this time around, wanting more of a say in key decisions.
With the Argentine out of the picture, Tottenham turned to Paratici, the Juventus transfer guru they had eyed up in the past.
His impending appointment has certainly caused waves within the club. Spurs’ current technical performance director Steve Hitchen – who has director of football duties – is believed to have been unaware of the moves to bring in Paratici until late in the process.
The treatment of Hitchen, who is popular within Tottenham, has left a number of staff and players unhappy but the club are understood to want him to remain within their new structure.
All eyes will be on Paratici now though and what power he will be able to wield.
His role at Juventus after Beppe Marotta’s departure in 2018 had been a bigger, wider ranging role than simply a director of football, more a CEO of sporting matters and it is a similar position that he is expected to take up at Tottenham.
That should in theory give him more power than those directors of football – with various titles – who have come before him in David Pleat, Frank Arnesen, Damien Comolli, Franco Baldini, Paul Mitchell and Hitchen, and struggled within the parameters set by the club.
However, many within Spurs doubt that Levy will ever relinquish too much power at the club. This is a man who by his own admission was constantly on site during the construction of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, micro-managing to such a degree that he was choosing what type of finish surfaces had in certain rooms and deciding upon the most minute of details.
One sign that points in Paratici’s favour is that the club dispensed with Hitchen’s shortlist of candidates who met the chairman’s desire for a manager who fitted the club’s “DNA” and the new man was given the power to decide who he should work with. The strength of a director of football structure does rely on the man at the top choosing the right fit for him as well as the club.
Antonio Conte, suddenly a free agent and someone who had worked closely with Paratici at Juventus, became the next dream but again it did not prove to be a reality.
The former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss did not fit the original profile Levy was looking for, but when one of the world’s most successful managers shows interest in your club, it would be folly to not at least talk.
After initial promising discussions, it became clear that Conte and Tottenham were not on the same page in their expectations for the club’s financial might this summer and talks soon fell apart. Conte had departed Inter in a similar situation and it is difficult to see how Spurs thought they could present a different project.