Tottenham still considering Antonio Conte future as Daniel Levy draws up five-man shortlist to replace him

Despite a Champions League exit, Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur future is likely to be decided by what comes next in the same competition. The nature of Wednesday night's elimination to AC Milan should have been deeply concerning but chairman Daniel Levy will still only be convinced by a simple equation: If Spurs look like they might miss out on the Champions League next season, they will act.

It is why much weight is being given to the atmosphere within the club in the immediate aftermath of the Milan defeat. The responses will say a lot over whether Conte can actually rouse something from a squad that already looks like they have had enough of him.

This is why nobody expects the Italian to last beyond the summer, regardless of what happens. Conte's first season at White Hart Lane can actually be considered a success, but he just hasn't been a fit. Both manager and club immediately had different ideas about what they should expect, and problems have spread from there. It has created a disconnect, that leaves Spurs at a crossroads they have never really got away from since 2019.

This is also why so many are looking to the man that left that year, and who almost everyone believes is the only figure who can "unite" the club. It's well known Mauricio Pochettino would go back, with some of the players still pining for that era.

That is of course part of the problem. Spurs still feel like the remnant of the Pochettino era, as if they have never had the overhaul required.

The clamour for the Argentine's appointment does overlook a few other realities. It is often forgotten that there was a feel his era may have run its course back in 2019, and he himself had been considering an exit. There was a belief that the Champions League final defeat to Liverpool came as such a shock that it brought a "mental check-out" that fed into the problems of the next season.

Real Madrid were persistently interested in Pochettino throughout that time, and that is where there is a twist here. The Bernabeu job may well be available this summer, with Carlo Ancelotti expected to leave, and it could be where a few elements finally align. It is even possible Pochettino gets offered the Chelsea job before that, although Graham Potter's own badly needed Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund probably puts off immediate concerns about his future.

Pochettino was sacked by PSG at the end of last season (Getty Images)
Pochettino was sacked by PSG at the end of last season (Getty Images)

Spurs would also strongly consider Brentford's Thomas Frank, with all of Marco Silva, Thomas Tuchel and Luis Enrique on the radar but seen as less likely for different reasons.

Such discussion of course only plays into the feel that the short Conte era is essentially over, which does have some around the club wondering why they don't just get it over with and end it now. The complication remains the Champions League.

Spurs are still in the top four and finishing in those places could mean the season is still sold as a qualified success. Conte achieved it last year, with a run that started around now. Tottenham play three of the bottom seven in the Premier League next, starting with Nottingham Forest at home on Saturday.

It's just the team was not surrounded by the gloom we are currently seeing, where the squad pretty much know this manager won't be here next season.

The response will decide everything - and that doesn't just apply to results.