Saturday 22 October 2016

Antonio Conte wants Chelsea to challenge for Premier League title

Published 14/07/2016 | 04:36

Antonio Conte has held his first press conference as Chelsea manager
Antonio Conte has held his first press conference as Chelsea manager

Antonio Conte hopes to re-ignite Chelsea's title challenge.

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The Italian was unveiled as Chelsea head coach at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, insisting John Terry would continue as captain, whether the defender plays or not.

The 46-year-old is the permanent successor to Jose Mourinho after Chelsea's miserable Premier League title defence last term, when they finished 10th behind Leicester.

He acknowledged the competitive nature of the Premier League, but has high hopes for the Blues.

"We're slightly under-rated, but I hope we're in there and we can surprise people and that this can motivate us further," Conte said.

"I hope there is a small flame flickering that can eventually grow into a blazing inferno."

Conte was inevitably asked about Mourinho, who announced his arrival in English football as the Special One 12 years ago.

Conte, who led Juventus to three successive Serie A titles, declined to give himself a moniker, but believes there are characteristics he shares with Mourinho, now the Manchester United boss.

He said: "I do believe there are winners in football and it's not everyone that has that within them. Those that do have that winning mentality are indeed special.

"I leave you (the media) this opportunity to find a new name for me. I hope to be a good name, not bad."

Conte expressed pride and excitement at the challenge which he has begun.

He joins Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger, Mauricio Pochettino and Claudio Ranieri as a Premier League boss.

He said: "I'm very happy to compete with them, but in this tournament it's not a challenge between managers, between great teams, between great players, this is the most important things."

He plans to call former Chelsea boss Ranieri, who led Leicester to a surprise title success last term.

"I will call Claudio Ranieri, first and foremost because he's a lovely man, and I will ask him a bit of advice," he said.

Conte would not comment on transfer speculation. His one signing to date is Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi, while Leicester midfielder N'Golo Kante has been heavily linked.

One player who thought he was leaving Chelsea is Terry, who will stay as skipper.

The 35-year-old defender signed a one-year contract extension - his third such deal - in May, having in January declared his expectation that he would leave this summer.

Terry, who has made more than 700 appearances for the Blues, has been reassured his considerable influence is valued.

"Yes, John Terry is the captain of Chelsea when he plays, when he doesn't play. You are always the captain," Conte said.

"He's captain of this team, he's a great player, with a great personality, with great charisma.

"I like to speak to him because he knows the club, the right spirit to play in this club and for me he's an important player.

"When a player deserves to play, with me, (they) play."

Former Italy boss Conte, speaking English well, expressed his pride and excitement at what awaits with Chelsea.

He also acknowledged the challenge ahead at a club which won the 2014-15 Premier League title, but finished a lowly 10th last term.

He added: "The pressure for me is not important. I was born with pressure. It's normal."

Conte was speaking in the Harris Suite at Stamford Bridge after his second day of training with Chelsea's first-team squad and 12 days after Italy exited Euro 2016 on penalties against Germany.

He said: "I'm a worker. I know only this: work, work and work. I know only this road to win.

"I'm very happy because I found a right attitude in Cobham (Chelsea's Surrey training base)."

Conte wanted to return to club football "to breathe the grass, to stay with my players, to improve them".

He added: "I have passion and I want to transfer my passion to my players, also to my fans. I suffer during the game and I want my players to see this.

"I fight with all my strength to reach with my players the habit of the final victory.

"I think this is a great challenge. This is the right moment for me to arrive in England, in this tournament. Very, very tough.

"I like the challenge, I like to prove myself in this situation.

"I'm sure with the players, with the club altogether, we can achieve great satisfaction at the end of the season."

As for the team's formation, Conte did not reveal his plans, but used a tailor metaphor.

"You must build the best dress for the team and respect their characteristics," he added.

Press Association

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