Nuno Espirito Santo ended Tottenham’s search for a new head coach by signing a two-year contract with the Premier League club on Wednesday.
An experienced, seasoned operator in elite European football, Nuno will be realistic enough to acknowledge he was not Spurs’ first choice when they sacked Jose Mourinho in April.
What number was he on chairman Daniel Levy’s list? Honestly, it’s hard to say.
Here, Stats Perform looks back over more than two months of approaches, talks and breakdowns before Levy finally filled his vacancy in the dugout.
April 19 – Mourinho sacked
Jose Mourinho chalked up 13 defeats in 2020-21, more than any other season in his coaching career, and Spurs had dropped a joint-highest 20 points from winning positions in the Premier League by the time Levy decided to cut his losses. It was a busy time for the Spurs chief, whose club’s involvement in the ill-fated European Super League had also just been announced.
April 20 – Mason steps in
Aged just 29 and without any prior senior coaching experience, former Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason was appointed as interim boss until the end of the season. His second game in charge was the small matter of an EFL Cup final against Manchester City, where Tottenham were thoroughly outplayed in a 1-0 defeat. In the Premier League, Mason won four and lost two to seal qualification for the Europa Conference League.
May 18 – Kane transfer request
Tottenham issued a hasty statement urging focus on the end of the ongoing season after multiple reports that England captain Harry Kane had made clear his desire to leave, with Manchester City presumed to be among the frontrunners for his services.
May 21 – Nuno announced Wolves departure
After gaining promotion back to the Premier League for the 2018-19 season and performing strongly in the next two campaigns, Nuno’s Wolves fell away last term and a departure by mutual consent – despite his contract being due to expire in 2023 – was confirmed. In 199 games in charge of Wolves, Nuno amassed a record of W95 D49 L55.
May 27 – Pochettino return?
Surely not? It couldn’t happen… could it? Only 18 months after being axed by Levy, The Athletic reported Mauricio Pochettino was in talks over a sensational return, having failed to settle at Paris Saint-Germain. Ultimately, nothing materialised, but Pochettino was not the only elite coach in Tottenham’s sights.
June 2 – Conte in talks
Concurrent with the club’s eventually successful pursuit of Fabio Paratici to become sporting director, The Guardian reported Tottenham were negotiating with Antonio Conte. The former Juventus and Chelsea boss added another league title to his collection with Inter Milan in 2020-21.
June 4 – Conte off
Conte has built a reputation as a notoriously difficult man to work with and, ultimately, Spurs did not even get that far. “Generally, I like the challenges and I’ve accepted many of them during my career,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Even the top clubs I coached were never the favourites when I arrived. However, if there’s something that doesn’t convince me I prefer not to accept regardless of the money.”
June 9 – Fonseca talks
Paulo Fonseca would be neither the last Portuguese nor Jorge Mendes client involved in this story, but he came closer than anyone before Nuno to becoming Tottenham head coach. Multiple reports suggested a two-year deal had been agreed in principle with the former Roma boss.
June 17 – Fonseca off… but Gattuso on?
A tumultuous day saw an apparently iron-clad deal with Fonseca to be nothing of the sort and Spurs purportedly turning their attentions towards Gennaro Gattuso – the famously combustible ex-Milan and Napoli coach, who backed out of an agreement to join Fiorentina on July 1 and leapt straight into an improbable Premier League soap opera.
June 18 – No, Gattuso off
A sustained online backlash from fans over the prospect of Gattuso becoming Tottenham boss resulted in the club pulling the plug, ESPN reported. The protests were, in part, down to the former Italy midfielder’s controversial past comments on racism, women in football and same-sex marriage, and Levy was back to square one.
June 21 – Man City bid £100m for Kane
As the well-trodden path towards a new manager appeared to go cold, The Guardian claimed Premier League champions City had lodged a £100million opening offer for Kane, with part-exchange players also up for grabs. Levy was reported to be uninterested in such a proposal and each club denied any official bid had been lodged.
June 30 – Nuno appointed
One man who will certainly be involved when City travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on the opening day of the new Premier League season is Nuno. “I’ve spoken already about the need to revert back to our core DNA of playing attacking, entertaining football and Fabio and I believe Nuno is the man who can take our talented group of players, embrace our young players coming through and build something special,” Levy said. At last, the situation was no longer vacant at Spurs.