Tottenham were eliminated from the Europa Conference League just over a month after Conte’s appointment and ahead of the January transfer window, which meant he and the club did not need to worry about Uefa’s homegrown player rule when signing Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus.
But it is an issue ahead of a summer in which Conte ideally wants a centre-back, a right wing-back, two midfielders, a forward and a reserve goalkeeper, with Tottenham optimistic of signing Sam Johnstone on a free transfer from West Bromwich Albion. Kulusevski’s loan deal could also be made permanent.
Torino pair Gleison Bremer, who is a centre-back, and Wilfried Singo, a right wing-back, are thought to be on Tottenham’s radar, while the club are considering a move to try to re-sign Christian Eriksen on a free transfer and Youri Tielemans has been linked with a move to Spurs despite reservations from inside the club over the Belgian.
Spurs may have to turn to Forest right-back Djed Spence
Clubs are able to name 17 foreign players in their European squads, with the added complication for Spurs being that, under Uefa rules and unlike in the Premier League, Eric Dier, Matt Doherty, Joe Rodon and Ben Davies all take up a place on the overseas list.
That means Tottenham’s current first-team squad has 16 players who would count as foreign in European competition, with three more, Bryan Gil, Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele, out on loan who would take the number up to 19 – two more than Spurs are allowed.
Swapping Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini for Johnstone would help Tottenham’s European quota, but that would still only leave two spots for foreign signings – even if Gil, Lo Celso and Ndombele are sold or loaned out again this season.
That is why Spurs may have to consider trying to sign Nottingham Forest right-back Djed Spence, who is English and who Tottenham enquired about in January, over Singo – unless they can sell Emerson just 12 months after his arrival from Barcelona.
The situation could also impact Conte’s plans for his midfield, particularly as signing two new players would almost certainly lead to the departure of Harry Winks, one of the few senior players to count as ‘club trained’ according to Uefa rules. Conte is understood to be a fan of England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, but it is highly questionable whether or not Levy would agree to pay what Manchester United could offer for the Leeds United star.
Selling Rodon, for whom the club will listen to bids, would free up a spot on Tottenham’s foreign list, but Conte is likely to need to offload Steven Bergwijn or Lucas Moura to have enough space to sign an overseas forward to ease some of the load on Harry Kane.
Conte was given a reminder that Tottenham needed far more quality-in-depth in the defeat to Brighton last weekend, particularly given the fact he would hope to be involved in far more games next season.
But he will be the latest manager to find that questionable squad management over recent years, which resulted in former coach Mauricio Pochettino having to leave Juan Foyth out of his Champions League squad four years ago, could provide an extra hurdle.
Back then, Pochettino said: “It’s so painful. It’s a mistake that we made that at this level of football we cannot repeat again. For different reasons we need to find solutions before the start of the season.
“I told you we need English players, but it was impossible. Of course, now that is the problem and it’s so painful to have players out of the list.”
Since then, Tottenham have signed only two English first-team players, Ryan Sessegnon and Joe Hart, who was replaced by Gollini last summer.