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Antonio Conte described his appointment to Tottenham as a signal of intent on their rivals and Harry Kane.
Kane endured a tough start to the 2021-2022 campaign, scoring only one goal in his first 13 league games after apparently getting his head turned due to interest from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The Spurs, without their talisman Kane firing, suffered in the league and finished ninth after five top-flight losses in seven games before the former Inter head coach took charge in the wake of Nuno Espirito Santos’ firing.
They have since proved revitalized under Conte, who set and then extended a club record as he remains unbeaten in his first eight league games.
It’s a race that has brought Tottenham to sixth place, two points behind fourth-placed Arsenal rivals, while still boasting two games left.
Kane has also started to find the net and has scored three goals in his last four Premier League matches, and Conte outlined how Spurs’ stance with their striker during the interest from City showed their desire to build something special.
“I followed the situation about Harry and I’ve seen what happened and what could happen,” he said. “The club decided to keep Harry on the team and it was a good choice by the owner.
“You show that you want to continue to build something important around one of the best players on the team.
“Harry is a player from Tottenham and continues to be one of the best on the team. He is a reference point in the locker room.
“I think Tottenham wanted to bring me here to send a signal outside and also to our players.”
24 – Most Premier League goals in 2021:
24 Mohamed Salah
18 Harry Kane
15 Ilkay Gündogan
14 Michail Antonio, Son Heung-Min, Diogo Jota, Kelechi Iheanacho
13 Ollie Watkins, Bruno Fernandes, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 31, 2021
The English captain has won the Premier League Golden Boot award three times but has never lifted any trophies with the Spurs during his time at the club.
Questions have been raised as to whether the striker will chase silverware and leave his childhood club, though Conte feels he understands why Kane is yet to move on.
“Yes, I understand Harry’s situation, because when you finish your career, you can definitely see your performances and the team where you played, but at the same time, it’s also true to see what you’ve won,” he continued.
“I think it’s important for top players because sometimes it happens that important players end their careers with a few titles and others under them have more.
“We are talking about a really good person and a good man. This is the most important thing, I knew the situation in the summer, but when Harry decided to stay, I had found a player who was completely involved in the project.
“I’m happy to have him on my team, we’re talking about a top player and a top striker. He knows my opinion well, but I repeat that I am very happy to work with him. “
Conte will hope Kane can shoot Spurs past his former team Chelsea in the EFL Cup semi-final when the first match takes place on Wednesday.
Both of Conte’s previous two defeats in the competition have come against London teams, where they have lost to West Ham in 2016-17 and to Arsenal over two matches in the semi-finals 2017-18.
While the Spurs have progressed from six of their last eight semi-final matches in the EFL Cup, Conte believes there is a significant rebuilding job to be done after Mauricio Pochettino’s departure, which guided Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2018-19.
“I have to be honest if we are to compare this to Tottenham, and in the past I think Tottenham used to be a team with a lot of players with more experience in the league,” he added.
“They had a good momentum in the past to try to win something. Now I think we are in a moment where we start again.
“We lost a lot of players and now there are young players you have to wait. To get the right mentality, to win, you have to have the right mentality.
“That means you have to be focused every day. You have to think football more than two or three hours a day.
“You make yourself a winner, but you need time and people who transfer you the right feeling and thoughts every day – but you need time.
“I think Mauricio did a fantastic job when he took a group of young players and they grew and became a candidate for the title. I remember they in Chelsea fought to the last with us and Leicester [City].
“The level has now dropped a bit since players left and now we have to try to have the time and patience to build a good situation up again.”