Tuesday 22 August 2017

Antonio Conte focused on title win first then having his 'real value' recognised

Antonio Conte is on the brink of adding another league title to his CV
Antonio Conte is on the brink of adding another league title to his CV

Antonio Conte has suggested Chelsea should recognise his "real value" as reward for a potential Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season as head coach.

Chelsea will seek to clinch the Premier League title with victory at West Brom on Friday and play Arsenal in the FA Cup final on May 27.

Title-winning bosses are often rewarded with new contracts and Conte may be offered an improved deal, 12 months into the three-year contract he began last summer.

The Italian has this season out-performed Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, at Manchester City and Manchester United, respectively. Both are rumoured to receive an annual salary in the region of £15million, while Conte's is reportedly £6.5million.

Conte on Thursday declined the opportunity to dismiss rumours of a return to Italy with Inter Milan, insisting his focus is on the present. The sacking of Stefano Pioli has created a vacancy at the San Siro.

"I have two years (remaining under) contract with Chelsea," Conte said.

"It's logical when you start the work in a new club the will is to continue to work, to try to improve your work in many years. For sure, this is my will.

"If, in the future, we decide to extend the contract, we'll decide this.

"The money is important only at this level to give the real value of a player or the coach.

"For me the most important thing now is to win. Then the future is important."

Conte's appointment was announced in April 2016 and he assumed his post last July after leading Italy at Euro 2016.

The 47-year-old has rejuvenated Chelsea, champions under Mourinho in 2015-16 before imploding and finishing 10th last term.

Three points for victory at The Hawthorns would give the Blues an unassailable 10-point lead over second-placed Tottenham and Conte a fourth successive domestic championship after three Serie A wins with Juventus.

"Now the most important thing is to reach our target. The most important thing is to write the history of the club," Conte added.

"It's important now, don't lose the concentration, be focused.

"I think we're doing a really good job, but I want this job to become great and then fantastic.

"We have two big opportunities this season to finish this season in the right way."

Conte's wife Elisabetta and daughter Vittoria have stayed in Italy this season due to schooling, but have long been scheduled to move to London this summer.

The Blues boss has admitted the challenge of living apart from his family, who regularly join him in London, including last Friday.

Conte enjoyed a family meal instead of watching Tottenham's loss at West Ham which eased any title anxiety at Chelsea.

"After the dinner the surprise was great," Conte added.

Chelsea beat Middlesbrough on Monday night to move seven points clear. Midfielder N'Golo Kante was absent with a thigh injury but is available again.

Should the Baggies avoid defeat, it is likely only to delay Chelsea's celebrations as mid-table Watford and relegated Sunderland next visit Stamford Bridge.

Conte prefers to secure the trophy at the earliest opportunity.

"It's not important where you win, it's important to win," he added.

"Then you will have the time to celebrate the win where you want.

"Tomorrow's game is the most important game for us. It's a final.

"We must know that to play against West Brom is not easy. This is a really strong team, a physical team, a good coach. For sure, the atmosphere can be very hot."

Conte admits the early weeks of the season left him far from "tranquilo" before he introduced the 3-4-3 system which has served Chelsea well after September's 3-0 loss at Arsenal.

Conte added: "We started this season with two wins, but honestly... I wasn't calm, tranquilo. I didn't see what I was wanting to see."

There was not one 'Eureka' moment where Conte thought Chelsea could win the title.

"At the start of the season it wasn't easy," he added.

"When you finish 10th in the league it means that the problem is not only one, but there are a lot of problems.

"The problem is not only one person. We had to solve a lot of problems.

"I didn't see a moment. (But) I saw my team improving game by game and step by step."

Conte was thrown into an ice bath four years ago by his players after guiding Juventus to the title and would welcome similar celebrations from Chelsea.

"I hope," he said.

"The moment of celebration must be fantastic. I'm sure my players want to celebrate in the right way. I am the same."

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