Antonio Conte has insisted Chelsea would have to sack him if he was to leave this summer while doing little to disguise where the differences between himself and his club lay.
The countdown on Conte’s reign at Stamford Bridge started in earnest the moment he signed a new contract last summer without extending it. That deal has another year to run after this, but there is an expectation Conte and Chelsea will part at the end of this season.
Chelsea’s policy is to pay sacked managers until they get a new job, meaning Conte could earn around £9 million if he is dismissed and does not work for a year.
“Everything is possible,” said Conte, whose Chelsea team entertain Leicester City on Saturday. “But I have another year of contract and in this case I think the club has to decide to send me away. We are not talking about my work. The history of Chelsea is very clear. It is normal for the manager of the club to have this situation. If you won last season the League and reached the final of the FA Cup, this is the history of this club for the manager.”
Asked whether he might decide to walk away from Chelsea at the end of the season, Conte replied: “No. I am fully committed to Chelsea, to work with my players to try also to improve the club in the football aspect. I am fully committed in this and I am happy in what I am doing now and what I did in the past. But I am more happy in what I am doing now.”
Conte may be happy with his own work, but he continues to give the impression that he is far from satisfied with the efforts of those responsible for signing players.
The Italian wanted to sign Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal last summer and has recommended him once again, but admits he does not know why Chelsea appear to be letting the opportunity pass.
“I think it is a good investment,” said Conte. “We are talking about a top player and you can buy him for a price not so high. The amount is around £20 million. Maybe a normal price for Alexis Sánchez is €80-90m. This is my opinion.”
Conte was caught on camera whispering into the Arsenal player’s ear before Chelsea’s Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg draw.
“I said hello,” explained Conte. “He’s a great player and knows very well in my first season in Juventus we tried to buy him from Udinese and then he decided to go to Barcelona. He knows well my admiration for him and this was a good chance to say hello to him.”
Having outlined what a unique opportunity Sánchez presents for a club, Conte was asked to explain why Chelsea seem content to allow the 29-year-old to join Manchester United or City.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” said Conte. “I can give my opinion to my club for every situation, then they have to make the best decision and that is right. I don’t know, I don’t know how I can answer you. I don’t know.”
Conte was frustrated with Chelsea’s business in the summer transfer window and felt they lost the initiative of a Premier League title-winning season to Manchester City, who moved quicker to sign targets.
Asked whether it annoys him that City are continuing to try to boost their squad, despite being so far clear at the top of the table, Conte replied: “I understand that the other teams try to kill the other teams and to anticipate the situation, and this is the real transfer market – not to wait until the last moment to buy the players.
“If you anticipate the transfer market you become stronger and you make the other team weak. And I have great respect for the plan of the others because everyone tries to kill you.”