Fabio Paratici is looking to strengthen Antonio Conte’s defense at Tottenham as his first priority in the summer transfer window.
The Spurs head coach improved his back line on the pitch over the course of his seven months and the club ended up with the Premier League’s fourth-best defensive record, ending the season with five clean sheets from their final eight matches. However, with the Champions League also on the table next season Conte has asked for his defensive options to be strengthened in order to be able to rotate for the numerous matches without losing quality.
The Italian stuck with the same back three for much of the second half of the campaign in Cristian Romero, Eric Dier and Ben Davies and would likely have done so for much of the season had Romero not missed three months with a hamstring injury. At the end of the campaign Conte was also left with only two fit wing-backs in Ryan Sessegnon and Emerson Royal, both of whom have had their own injury issues in recent months.
Conte and Paratici met on a hot Friday morning at the latter’s Turin base to discuss the club’s transfer strategy for the summer and much of the talk is understood to have turned to the defensive side of the squad.
Paratici wasted no time in pushing forward a free transfer move for Conte favorite Ivan Perisic. The 33-year-old will arrive at Hotspur Way this week to complete a medical and finalize what is believed to be a £98,000 a week, two-year switch to Tottenham after telling Inter Milan that he does not plan to renew his contract with them.
Perisic is a winner and will bring with him a wealth of experience, having won the Champions League, the Serie A title under Conte and the Bundesliga title with both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, as well as domestic cup wins with four different clubs. He scored 10 goals and provided nine assists in 49 matches for Inter Milan last season, showing no signs of slowing down across almost 4,000 minutes of football.
Conte sees Perisic as being a crucial cog in improving the squad’s mentality in the big moments next season and the Croatian is a firm believer in the Italian’s coaching methods.
He can play at left wing-back or as a conventional winger, or even alongside the striker if required and Conte and Paratici believe that Perisic can help mentor and push on 21-year-old Sessegnon to develop as the wing-back duo share the large amount of matches on offer next season. Conte has high hopes for Sessegnon if the England U21 international can get a good full pre-season under his belt and steer clear of further hamstring woes.
Tottenham had also looked into the possibility of signing Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic and are set to listen to offers for Sergio Reguilon, who was unavailable for the final month of the season with a groin strain. The 25-year-old fell behind Sessegnon in the pecking order in the second half of the campaign and with the payment for his £28million transfer from Real Madrid in 2020 believed to be due this summer, Spurs are looking to offset that by accepting similar offers from interested clubs. That way, with the free transfer of Perisic, they will have raised extra funds to put into other areas of the team.
Tottenham are also set to improve their homegrown numbers by making a change in the goalkeeping department. Pierluigi Gollini’s loan from Atalanta is coming to an end without Spurs taking up the option to sign him permanently. Instead, the Italian’s place as Hugo Lloris’ back-up will be taken by 34-year-old England international Fraser Forsterwho was on the bench for Gareth Southgate’s men as recently as March for their friendlies against Switzerland and the Ivory Coast.
The 6ft 5ins goalkeeper played 24 times for Southampton last season and will arrive at Spurs on a free transfer. Any player looking to move from one English team to another as a free agent can only open talks after entering the final month of their contract, which is why nothing formal has been able to be signed or announced yet for Forster, who has a contract with the Saints until June 30.
While both of those signings are free ones, Tottenham are set to splash the cash on their squad building for Conte this summer with their £150million cash injection from owners ENIC as well as any transfer fees recouped.
In the right wing-back role, Spurs are looking at another possible homegrown signing with Paratici having watched Djed Spence in person this season. The dynamic 21-year-old is on loan at Nottingham Forest from Middlesbrough and has played 49 times, scoring three times and laying on five assists.
football.london understands that Tottenham have a strong interest in Spence who is involved in Sunday’s Championship play-off final for Forest against Huddersfield. There is set to be plenty of competition for the wing-back’s signature, with Forest also keen to retain him if they do earn promotion to the Premier League, which could include trying to take him on loan again if a bigger club signs the young wide man.
Spurs will look to move on one of their right wing-backs this summer. Matt Doherty has put himself in a good place to stay at the club after impressing Conte with his displays in the second half of the season before an unfortunate knee injury curtailed the 30-year-old’s campaign. Right-back Emerson Royal has not fitted the wing-back role as comfortably as the Irishman and could be set for the exit door just 12 months after arriving in north London if the expected offers come in for the 23-year-old Brazilian.
In the center of defense Spurs are expected to make a couple of signings. Conte wants another left-sided centre-back to rotate next season on that side of the back three with Ben Davies, who enjoyed the best campaign of his career under the Italian.
Spurs are set to pursue Conte and Paratici favorite Alessandro Bastoni from Inter Milan. The 23-year-old played 41 times under Conte last season and added another 44 appearances this campaign, while becoming a regular international starter for Italy.
The hope is that Bastoni can bring added quality to the left side of Tottenham’s back three to complement Romero’s strength and quality on the other side. There is also an understanding that the Italian and the Argentine are different types of players with Bastoni seen within Spurs as a potential heir to Jan Vertonghen with a similar skilful style to the Belgian in being a ball-playing defender but without the same aggression and front foot style of defending Romero brings.
That could potentially make his adaptation to the physical nature of the Premier League slightly more gradual than the Argentine’s, but the presence of Davies will ensure that the Italian would not need to be rushed and there is a strong belief that Bastoni’s quality and high ceiling of potential would see him become a Premier League star once he adjusts as expected to the pace of the English game.
There are suggestions that Bastoni is keen on a reunion with Conte but the main hurdle for Spurs will be in prising him away from Inter. The young defender has only two years left on his contract in Milan but the Serie A club are not believed to be willing to let him go for anything under £51million, especially with the Inter fans desperate for the player to stay. Spurs will be hoping that Inter’s need for funds, not least to sign another centre-back in Torino’s Gleison Bremer, will help them push a deal through.
football.london understands that Tottenham are also big admirers of RB Leipzig’s 20-year-old centre-back Josko Gvardiol, who played 46 times last season with six appearances in the Champions League. The in-demand Croatian however has a long contract with Leipzig until 2026, signed last summer, and is believed to be happy to remain in Germany amid interest from Manchester City and Chelsea.
Tottenham will need another centre-back at some point this summer with at least one potential departure expected from the backline. Joe Rodon is set to move on this summer in search of regular football. The 24-year-old Wales international is expected to draw plenty of interest from Premier League sides in the coming window, particularly some of the promoted sides.
Rodon has three years left on his original contract with Spurs which he signed from Championship side Swansea and the club’s choices will be to either sell him this summer or discuss a new contract to reflect his Premier League status and then loan him out for the season.
Japhet Tanganga has also faced another campaign blighted by injuries, with a knee problem ending his season in February. He did start eight of 14 matches under Conte before the injury and is expected to be used heavily in pre-season as the Italian takes another long look at him before making a decision on his future.
If either Rodon or Tanganga heads out then another centre-back will be sought while the future of Davinson Sanchez will be decided by what offers arrive for him. Conte likes the Colombian, who filled in seamlessly for Romero in the final matches of the season as Spurs kept three clean sheets.
The head coach believes that if Sanchez can find consistency in maintaining his concentration throughout the entirety of matches then he has the other tools to be a top defender. However, the former club record signing will also have retained much of his original £42million value which could lead to at least one tempting offer arriving this season.
Spurs’ defensive options are set to look very different next season as Paratici and Conte build a squad strong enough to compete on all fronts. They will also look at attacking signings with a forward-thinking central midfielder and striker being sought as well as replacing any departing attacking midfielders.