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Champions League: European exit leaves question marks over Antonio Conte's future

Antonio Conte says a decision over his Tottenham future will be made "at the end of the season" after his side crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage.

Spurs' last hope of clinching silverware for the first time since 2008 was extinguished by AC Milan at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday evening, as the 0-0 draw was enough to send the Italian giants through 1-0 on aggregate.

Conte's side mustered just two shots on target during the 90 minutes and the final whistle was met by a chorus of boos from the home crowd, who appear to be losing patience with the former Chelsea boss.

After being knocked out of Europe by the Rossoneri, the 53-year-old Italian responded to questions about his future at the club, saying: "This is not the right day to speak about my future. I have a contract with Tottenham and Tottenham know very well my thoughts.

"At the end of the season we meet and then make a decision."

Conte questions quality again

Since taking charge of Tottenham in November 2021, Conte has spoken about the need for patience while also admitting that the current squad is not at the level needed to compete for top honours.

He again made reference to this in the aftermath of the European exit, adding: "At this moment we don't have a solid foundation to be competitive and win.

"We try to work and get the right players to get the right foundation and try to find the solution in the transfer market for the right team."

So what areas do Spurs need to improve in? They seem well-stocked in attack, with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Richarlison, Arnaut Danjuma and Dejan Kulusevski providing good options in the final third.

There is maybe the need for a quality playmaker in midfield and Leicester's James Maddison is a player that could provide some much-needed guile and creativity, with the Englishman tipped to leave the King Power Stadium in the summer.

Centre-back is also an area that could do with strengthening, as Cristian Romero again showed his lack of discipline when getting sent off on Wednesday and Eric Dier not always the most reliable.

A lack of reliability can also be aimed at goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and a new number one may be on the agenda in the summer, with Brentford contract rebel David Raya one candidate said to be on the list.

But all of these signings will require a fair chunk of money to be shelled out and it's questionable whether Spurs will be willing to give Conte such a big war chest with doubts over his future.

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Richarlison quotes a concern

When a manager is under pressure it is crucial they have the backing of the dressing room, but there appear to be some cracks showing and the comments from Brazilian forward Richarlison won't help matters.

In an interview with TNT Sports Brazil, last summer's signing spoke about how the club has handled him since arriving, saying: "It was going well, in a good sequence, two wins against West Ham and Chelsea. Suddenly, he put me on the bench, against Wolverhampton he put me on for five minutes. I asked why, but they didn't tell me anything.

"Let's see what he will say tomorrow, but there are no fools here either, I'm a professional, I work every day and I want to play."

With Spurs struggling to create, you have to ask yourself why someone like Richarlison is not being handed much playing time and this fractious relationship is not helping anyone at the club.

Top-four hopes in jeopardy

All that Spurs have left to fight for this season is a top-four finish in the Premier League and given the uncertainty around Conte's future, ending up in the Champions League places is no guarantee.

Tottenham currently occupy fourth position in the standings, but fifth-place Liverpool are just three points behind with a game in hand, while Newcastle in sixth have two matches in hand on Spurs and are just four points adrift.

Brighton also have aspirations to finish in the top four and although they are seven points behind Tottenham, the Seagulls have three games in hand and will be hoping to close the gap in the weeks to come.

Conte's men also have to travel to both Newcastle and Liverpool in April, while a home clash with Manchester United is wedged in between those two away assignments, so there are some huge games coming up next month.

Spurs are 9/4 To Finish in Top 4, while Liverpool are 10/11, Newcastle are 9/4 and Brighton are priced at 6/1.

End of the road for Conte?

Conte's contract expires on 30th June with Spurs having an option to extend it by another year and reports in January claimed a new deal is already on the table, though the manager asked the club to put the offer on hold for the time being.

The apparent lack of willingness to commit his future to North London beyond this season is a big concern, especially given the rumours claiming one of his former sides, Juventus, are plotting a move for him to return to Turin.

It looks like a formality that the Italian will leave at the end of the campaign, although the fact he said on Italian TV "they (Spurs) might sack me even before the end of the season" suggests an earlier exit is a distinct possibility.

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