Manchester United misfit Eric Bailly is firmly on Antonio Conte’s radar (Picture: Getty)
Antonio Conte is already making big demands at Tottenham and has made it clear he wants to sign two new starting centre-backs in January, with Manchester United’s Eric Bailly reportedly identified a top target.
The 52-year-old had reservations about taking charge of Tottenham midway through the campaign, but was given assurances by managing director, Fabio Paratici, that he will have the financial backing he feels he needs this winter and next summer.
Spurs are currently languishing down in seventh place in the Premier League table and Conte wants significant investment to ensure the north London outfit have a realistic chance of qualifying for next year’s Champions League.
The fiery Italian has won five league trophies in his last seven terms as a head coach and has ambitions to transform Tottenham into a genuine title challengers as early as next season.
Duncan Castles, speaking on The Transfer Window Podcast, reports that there is an ‘understanding’ that Tottenham’s deep financial reserves will be channeled into the team now the stadium is complete.
Upgrading Spurs’ current options in central defence is viewed as a priority by Conte, just as it was for his predecessors Nuno Espirito Santo, Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino.
The Ivory Coast international is tied into a contract at United until 2024 (Picture: Getty)
According to Castles, Conte believes strengthening at centre-back is ‘fundamental’ in being able to get his back-five system working as he intends in the second half of the campaign and beyond.
It’s claimed out-of-favour United defender Bailly, 27, was a target for Conte at Inter Milan remains firmly on his radar as a possible solution at the back.
Bailly has become increasingly frustrated by his situation in Manchester, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continually favouring Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof regardless of their form and fitness over the last 12 months.
Conte wants significant financial backing in January (Picture: Getty)
The issue came to a head when Bailly openly challenged Solskjaer after Maguire was given the nod for United’s recent 4-2 defeat to Leicester despite completing just one training session in the build-up.
Solskjaer’s departure means Bailly is open to the prospect of fighting for his place, but it remains to be seen whether he will be given that opportunity to impress under the incoming manager.
Bailly has made 109 appearances since arriving at Old Trafford for a fee of £30million back in 2016 and the Ivorian has two-and-a-half years remaining on his current deal.
Solskjaer handed Bailly a rare start in this month’s Manchester derby, but the former Villarreal centre-half scored an early own goal and was replaced at half-time.
Speaking after United’s 2-0 defeat, Roy Keane said Bailly was one of three players he deemed not up to the standard to represent the club.
‘It’s just so poor. I look for characters. Scott McTominay and Fred… I know McTominay is learning his trade, but these players aren’t good enough for Manchester United,’ the ex-United captain said on Sky Sports.
‘Defensively, I wasn’t shocked when [Eric] Bailly sliced one into his own net, he’s got that in him, he’s erratic.
‘Fred’s playing for Manchester United… Fred! Anyone who thinks he’s good enough for United is in cuckoo land.’