Antonio Conte has insisted that Chelsea would be stupid to sack him at the end of the season as clubs which trust their manager stick by them, even when they don’t win trophies.
Conte, who unexpectedly won the Premier League in his first season in charge, says that no club can expect such a successful campaign every year and that an ‘intelligent’ club would allow a manager to develop his ideas even if they didn’t win a trophy every season.
Former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique is being lined up to take over next season, with Conte expected to depart as a result of the ongoing tension with the board. And Conte’s latest intervention will be seen by some as a challenge to the club board to have the intelligence to back him rather than revert to type and sack him.
Conte said: ‘In my opinion, you continue to work with a manager or coach not because of what he achieves in one season, but because you trust in him.
‘Then you build something with him. But it doesn’t mean you have to win something, because that’s not simple. Not easy. Especially in England, it’s not simple.
‘You can win but, at the same time, the club might not be happy to keep you. For this reason, it’s right to send the coach away.
‘At the same time, you can trust in a coach and his work and continue with him even if you don’t win, and try and build something important. There are two ways. There is a stupid way and an intelligent way.’
Asked which way was the Chelsea way, he replied: ‘This is my opinion. At the same time, I have great respect for every opinion. If the club decides to send me away, I don’t know when, it’ll be because they’re not happy with my work.’
After two humiliating three-goal defeats by Bournemouth and Watford, Conte has been given time to rejuvenate the team, who had three days off last week, and will lead them into the Champions League last-16 against Barcelona and the FA Cup fifth round.
But he desperately needs a victory at home to struggling West Brom on Monday to keep Chelsea on track for the top four. Any manager which threatens the club Champions League status has previously been replaced mid-season by Chelsea.
Conte insists that the speculation about his future and the scepticism that he will see out his contract to 2019 has not affected the players, despite just two wins in ten matches.
‘Honestly, I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘I don’t think talking about my future can affect the players. Otherwise, from the first game we lost against Burnley, this could have happened.
‘My players are not used to it, but they are getting used to these rumours and speculation. But, for sure, I’m very happy. I’m very happy with the commitment of my players, and the behaviour of my players.
‘The players show me every day they want to overcome this situation. [But] we are talking about a team that is fourth in the league, that is preparing to face the game against Barcelona.
‘We are in the FA Cup competition, and we reached the semi-finals in the Carabao Cup. Yeah, I think we understand that, when you lose two games in a row, the situation is not simple. But, maybe, we are increasing the difficulty of this team.’
‘Maybe there are a lot of rumours and speculation [but] … we are keeping our expectations. I don’t think that anyone trusted us to win the title this season. If I remember back, there were two teams fighting for the title, both from Manchester. Also last season, we started behind (them).
‘For this reason, there are too many speculations around this club, around me, around this team. I think that, maybe, you have to find a bit more balance. I understand that we have to live with this pressure, and it’s okay for me. It’s okay for me and my players.’