Tottenham Hotspur’s 72-day search for appointing a new man to guide their team forward is now finally concluded. Nuno Espírito Santo, most recently of Wolverhampton Wanderers, has been unveiled as the team’s new Head Coach. The 47-year-old joins Spurs on an initial two-year contract.
Arriving at Wolves in 2017, Nuno guided the Molineux-based outfit out of the Championship and into the Big Time at the first time of asking. What followed were two back-to-back 7th-place finishes in the Premier League, including a quarter-final run in the UEFA Europa League in the 2019-20 season – uncommon for a newly-promoted side.
The 2020-21 season, however, saw Wolves’ form drop off. A string of injuries – especially Raúl Jiménez’s skull fracture – and formational change saw the team slip to 13th and made everyone reach the realisation that Nuno’s race in the Black Country had run its course. Duly, he bid farewell to an ecstatic and grateful Wolves crowd on the final matchday as his team lost to Manchester United.
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Talking about Nuno’s appointment at Spurs, club chairman Daniel Levy said:
“First of all, I’d like to welcome Nuno to the Club. We should like to thank our supporters for all their patience throughout this process. 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.”
Fabio Paratici, Spurs’ newly appointed Managing Director – Football, added:
“The brief for this appointment has always been clear, we wanted a Head Coach that can instil all the values that are important to this Football Club. You only have to look at Nuno’s time at Wolves to see his ability to take a group of players and implement an adaptive style that brings success and allows players to develop and thrive. We are all looking forward to getting started in what we hope will be a successful time with the Club.”
Nuno himself concluded:
“When you have a squad with quality and talent, we want to make the fans proud and enjoy. It’s an enormous pleasure and honour (to be here), there’s joy and I’m happy and looking forward to starting work. We don’t have any days to lose and we must start working immediately as pre-season starts in a few days.”
However, Nuno’s appointment has not gone down particularly well with the Tottenham fanbase. Given the way the club have gone about looking for a new coach after sacking José Mourinho in April, no one’s delusional about the fact that Nuno was under no circumstances Spurs’ first choice. His brand of football is also generally deemed defensive and unexciting, which already goes against Levy’s promise of bringing “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining” football back at the club. There are also concerns regarding his agent, Jorge Mendes, and the influence he could exert in the coming months.
But Nuno’s work at Wolves cannot be ignored. Raising a club from mid-table Championship obscurity to Premier League stability – granted, with substantial foreign investment – is no mean feat. On their best day, Nuno’s Wolves squad would be a sum much greater than the constituent parts. He also had their fanbase united behind the club no matter what.
He backs his player to the hilt even on the worst days, demands a lot of discipline of them yet remains on good terms. The group he runs in a close-knit one and might not prove fruitful in the long run, but it’s the positives Levy would be hoping could bring some stability back at the club in the short-term.
The matter of Jorge Mendes, on the other hand, can be left to Fabio Paratici to deal with. In his time as football director across Sampdoria and Juventus, Paratici has come to deal with a lot of powerful agents and agencies. He understands the necessity of the “evil”, and has shown he can work with them efficiently without things going too far south. His ability to unearth remote talents for dirt cheap fees, coupled with Nuno’s capacity to incorporate them in a well-oiled squad, will likely make Tottenham a hard prospect for any opposition.
Clearly, Nuno’s is not an appointment Spurs have made with a long-term vision. If they had their way, he would never have been approached in the first place. But that is not the luxury Spurs currently have. They are trying to find themselves again, but they also needed a manager for the season that has, officially, already begun. Just as Nuno has a hard task ahead of him, both Levy and Paratici have a lot to work toward bringing some goodwill back at the club. All parties will be hoping this move could at least see the club sail through a turbulent period of financial uncertainty and put them back on the right path over the next two years.
Now it just remains to be seen whether it happens. Only time will tell.