TOTTENHAM are facing a battle to persuade Thomas Tuchel to be their new manager.
Ex-Chelsea boss Tuchel and former Spurs chief Mauricio Pochettino are the top candidates to succeed Antonio Conte.
It is now a matter of when, not if, Conte departs after a week from hell in which the club crashed out of both the FA Cup and Champions League.
His deal expires in the summer and Spurs will NOT extend it.
Chairman Daniel Levy is understood to have reservations about bringing back fans’ favourite Pochettino.
But if he plumps for Tuchel, he needs to convince the German coach he can give him the tools to make Tottenham serious trophy challengers.
Conte, 53, admitted he feared the sack after Wednesday’s Champions League KO to AC Milan.
Spurs have no immediate plans to get rid of the Italian, who has just recovered from emergency gallbladder surgery.
But the board could change tack if they feel Tottenham’s chances of finishing in the top four are under threat.
Tuchel, 49, has been a free agent since his shock Stamford Bridge axing by Chelsea’s billionaire owner Todd Boehly in September.
BETTING SPECIAL – BEST FOOTBALL BETTING SITES IN THE UK
The ex-Borussia Dortmund boss insists he was a Spurs fan growing up and was fascinated by their “adventurous” Tottenham Hotspur name.
He is thought to be keen on a return to England.
But having managed Paris Saint-Germain to a Champions League final in 2020, before winning the competition a year later with Chelsea, Tuchel has been waiting for a vacancy at an elite club.
However, some fans may object to the prospect of a FIFTH ex-Blues boss being hired by Levy, who has previously appointed Glenn Hoddle, Andre Villas-Boas, Jose Mourinho and Conte.
A return for Poch would be a crowd-pleaser, given how loved he was in five years in charge of Spurs.
The Argentine took them to the 2019 Champions League final and his name was chanted by supporters during Wednesday’s 0-0 last-16 second leg draw with Milan, which sent the Italian giants through 1-0 on aggregate.
Others in the frame for Conte’s job include ex- Spain and Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, Brighton chief Roberto De Zerbi and Eintracht Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner.
The situation is further complicated by the club awaiting the fate of director of football Fabio Paratici, who has a big say on managerial appointments.
Paratici is set to discover within a month if his appeal against a 2½-year ban from Italian football is successful.
If not, the suspension for his part in alleged financial irregularities at former club Juventus could be extended worldwide, in which case his role at Spurs would surely become untenable.