Antonio Conte has made clear that Cristian Romero is a Tottenham player for the long term, revealing that the club have “bought him” and there is no mere option to sign him on a permanent basis in the summer after an initial loan.
“We have an obligation to buy … we bought him,” Conte said, reducing what has been a complicated deal to its simplest terms.
Romero moved to Spurs from Atalanta last August, with the selling club announcing it would be – at first – a loan until the end of the season. The purchase price is €55m (£46.4m) and it is locked in for the 23-year-old Argentina centre-half, who Conte described as feeling like a “new signing”.
Romero got himself sent off in Conte’s first game as the Spurs manager – the 3-2 Europa Conference League win over Vitesse on 4 November – and then played the 90 minutes of the 0-0 Premier League draw at Everton. After that, he tore a hamstring on international duty and returned only in Saturday’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Brighton.
Romero has been closely linked in recent years to Fabio Paratici, Spurs’ managing director of football, who officially started his job last July. In the summer of 2019, Paratici – working at Juventus – signed Romero from Genoa for €26m before loaning him back to Genoa for the season.
The following summer, Paratici loaned him to Atalanta, inserting an option for them to make the transfer permanent in the summer of 2021 for €16m, which they would take up. Paratici then brought Romero to Spurs. Romero was named as the best defender in Serie A last season and he helped Argentina to win the Copa América last summer.
“Romero is perfect for the Premier League,” Conte said. “He’s strong physically, he has the timing to anticipate and good personality to play with the ball. Despite being a young player, he has good experience, he’s strong. I like him. For sure, he has a lot of space for improvement.”
Conte, who enjoyed a successful 13-year stint at Juventus during his playing career, was asked whether he would have been able to cut it in England’s top division.
“I would have liked to play in the Premier League, I tried to get this experience,” Conte said. “I know that Alex Ferguson liked my football. I know in the past there was a moment that maybe Manchester United wanted to bring me there. My agent told me this but I don’t know if this is a lie or the truth!”
Conte will be without the injured Oliver Skipp, Eric Dier and Japhet Tanganga for the visit of Southampton on Wednesday night. He hopes that Skipp, who has a groin problem, can be back in one week or “10 days maximum”, although the medical department have said it will be two weeks. Dier’s thigh injury is not thought to be serious.
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