Antonio Conte labelled his Tottenham appointment as a signal of intent to their competitors and to Harry Kane.
Kane endured a tough start to the 2021-22 campaign, scoring just one goal in his first 13 league games after seemingly having his head turned amid interest from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Spurs, without their talisman Kane firing, suffered in the league and were ninth after five top-flight losses in seven games before the former Inter head coach took charge in the wake of Nuno Espirito Santo’s sacking.
They have since appeared revitalised under Conte, who set and then extended a club record as he remains unbeaten in his opening eight league games.
It is a run which has propelled Tottenham to sixth, two points behind fourth-placed rivals Arsenal while still boasting two games in hand.
Kane has also started to find the net, managing three goals in his last four Premier League games, and Conte outlined how Spurs’ standpoint with their striker during the interest from City displayed their desire to build something special.
“I followed the situation about Harry and I have seen what happened and what could happen,” he said. “The club decided to keep Harry in the team and it was a great choice of the owner.
“You are showing you want to continue to build something important around one of the best players in the team.
“Harry is a player of Tottenham and continues to be one of the best in the team. He’s a point of reference in the dressing room.
“I think Tottenham wanted to bring me here to send a signal outside and also to our players.”
24 – Most Premier League goals in 2021:
24 Mohamed Salah
18 Harry Kane
15 Ilkay Gündogan
14 Michail Antonio, Son Heung-Min, Diogo Jota, Kelechi Iheanacho
13 Ollie Watkins, Bruno Fernandes, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 31, 2021
The England captain has won the Premier League Golden Boot award three times but has never lifted any trophies with Spurs during his time at the club.
Questions have been raised as to whether the striker will chase silverware and leave his boyhood club, though Conte feels he understands why Kane is yet to move on.
“Yeah I understand Harry’s situation because for sure when you finish your career you can see your appearances and the team where you played but at the same time it’s right also to see what you have won,” he continued.
“I think that this is important for top players because sometimes it happens that important players finish their career with a couple of titles and others below them have more.
“We are talking about a really good person and a good man. This is the most important thing, I knew the situation in the summer but then when Harry decided to stay I had found a player totally involved in the project.
“I’m happy to have him in my team, we’re talking about a top player and a top striker. He knows well my opinion but I repeat I’m very happy to work with him.”
Conte will be hoping Kane can blast Spurs past his former side Chelsea in the EFL Cup semi-final when the first leg takes place on Wednesday.
Both of Conte’s previous two losses in the competition have come against London sides, losing to West Ham in 2016-17 and to Arsenal over two legs in the 2017-18 semi-final.
While Spurs have progressed from six of their last eight EFL Cup semi-final ties, Conte believes there is a sizeable rebuilding job to do after the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, who guided Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2018-19.
“I have to be honest, if we have to compare this Tottenham and in the past I think in the past Tottenham was a team with many players with more experience in the league,” he added.
“They had good momentum in the past to try and win something. Now, I think we’re in a moment when we’re starting again.
“We lost many players and now there are young players you have to wait. To get the right mentality, to win, you must have the right mentality.
“It means you must be focused every day. You have to think football more than two or three hours in your day.
“You make yourself to be a winner but you need time and people that transfer you the right sensation and thoughts every day – but you need time.
“I think Mauricio did a fantastic job as he took a group of young players and they grew and became a contender for the title. I remember at Chelsea they fought until the end with us and Leicester [City].
“The level now has dropped a bit as players left and now we have to try to have the time and patience to build again a good situation.”