Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has been surprised how quickly new boys Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur have made an impact on the Spurs team.
The Juventus pair arrived in January under Conte, with Sweden international Kulusevski a deadline day arrival. Spurs have got the 21-year-old on an 18-month loan, for which they have paid €10m. There is an obligation to make the move permanent for €35m if certain objectives are met.
Bentancur meanwhile landed on a permanent deal until 2026.
Conte initially claimed his squad had been weakened with only two arrivals. While Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gill all departed.
Last moth Conte told Sky Sport Italia: “What happened in January is not easy. Four players left in January. Four important players for Tottenham, two have arrived. So even numerically instead of reinforcing yourself you may have, on paper, weakened.
“Then precise choices were made for many reasons. But I certainly never expected that in January four players who I still considered important would change their shirts for a thousand reasons. This shows the difficulty.”
The Italian coach was pretty negative over the club’s transfer activity, although he maintained Kulusevski and Bentancur were terrific “prospects”.
Fast forward six weeks and Kulusevski has already shown his worth. He notched a fifth assist during the 5-1 rout of Newcastle.
He has also scored twice and is forming a deadly partnership with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, with the trio having a combined total of 27 goal contributions in the last eight Premier League games.
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Conte, who tried to sign the winger when he was in charge of Inter Milan, believes he is a big player for now and the future.
“We are talking about a player that I know very well, because he played in Italy,” he said. “He started to play with Atalanta, then Atalanta brought (sent) him on loan to Parma, and he played in Serie A. And he played in a fantastic way.
Conte tried to sign Kulusevski at Inter
“When I was coach of Inter, I tried to ask him, but then Juventus moved before. Maybe they put more money than us at the time, and then they bought this player.
“We are talking about a player who is only 21 years old. And he has to continue to play this way. Because he’s strong physically, big engine, he’s good technically.
“I think for Tottenham, this is a great signing for the present and for the future. We are talking about really, really strong.”
He arrived on the same day as midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, who also signed from Juventus, and the pair have helped transform Tottenham’s season.
“I said that with these two players, despite that we lost four players in January, with these two new signings we made this squad more complete, with more balance,” Conte added.
“I think that it’s very important in football to have a clear idea, and to have a good vision. Because in this way, the situation is more simple.”