Monday 23 July 2018

Antonio Conte aims to buck trend with long-term stay in Chelsea hot-seat

Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the title in his first season in charge
Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the title in his first season in charge

Antonio Conte has suggested he would like to lead Chelsea into the new Stamford Bridge.

The 48-year-old led Chelsea to the Premier League title in his first season in charge last term.

He signed improved terms to the initial three-year deal he agreed on taking up the job, but not an extension. His contract still expires in June 2019.

Conte insists he is committed to Chelsea, who have planning permission to rebuild Stamford Bridge but are yet to make a final decision whether to proceed.

If the Italian were to still be in charge it would defy Chelsea's managerial turnover, which pre-dates Roman Abramovich's 14-year ownership. Not since John Neal in 1981 to 1985 has a Blues boss enjoyed four calendar years in charge.

"I want to break this bad record. I must be positive," Conte said.

"When you start a job with a new club, I hope to stay in this club for many years.

"This could be a fantastic challenge for me and also for the club, to stay together and also to play with this team in a new stadium.

"Honestly, the new stadium will be great, but I love a lot Stamford Bridge, also to play in the stadium. I feel Stamford Bridge is like my house."

If Chelsea do opt to rebuild Stamford Bridge they will probably need to temporarily relocate, with Wembley the most likely destination.

The national stadium is Tottenham's temporary home this season and Spurs host the Blues in their first Premier League home game there on Sunday.

Tottenham have two wins in 10 games since Wembley reopened after a rebuild in 2007. Chelsea won the FA Cup semi-final between the teams in April.

Conte recognises the challenges of moving home, as he helped his former club Juventus transfer from the Stadio delle Alpi to their current home.

"For sure it's not the same when you play not in your stadium. It's different," Conte added.

"But if you want to have another good step to improve the club, you must have this type of situation."

Another aspect of moving has meant Conte went without his suit for the start of the Premier League season, when Chelsea lost to Burnley.

Conte will revert to his usual suit from a tracksuit, which some suggested was a statement of discontent, something he denies.

He said: "I didn't find the new house and I didn't bring with me the suit. But now from Sunday, I wear again my suit."

Conte could start with striker Alvaro Morata for the first time in the Premier League, while Harry Kane is likely to be in opposition after recently being complimented by the Chelsea head coach.

"Recently I only said that I have admiration for Kane, for this player, but I think it's normal," Conte said.

"It doesn't mean that I don't like my players. I can show admiration for another player.

"My only intention was to underline the great job (Spurs boss Mauricio) Pochettino is doing.

"Harry Kane wasn't this player three years ago. Now he's another player. He improved.

"I think it's the most important thing for a coach, to improve players. I repeat my admiration for the job of Pochettino. It's great."

Conte is hesitant about starting Morata because he was not a regular player for Real Madrid last season. The Italian also pointed to the price of Morata in the current market.

"We want Morata to play regularly for Chelsea," Conte added.

"We can spend a lot of money for one player and then I put him on the bench, because I'm seeing this player is not ready to play. There is not a relation to see him start a game.

"How much money have we paid for Morata? Maybe £56million could be a good price for Morata and for this transfer market."

Press Association

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