Friday 20 July 2018

FA Cup win will not decide whether I stay or go - Conte

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

Antonio Conte accepts that his Chelsea future will not be decided by whether he wins the FA Cup, with the Italian expected to leave Stamford Bridge even if the club salvage their season.

Amid growing concerns over his relationship with star player Eden Hazard, Conte is set to pay the price for his battles with the board and members of his squad.

But Chelsea face the threat of having to pay the full £9 million (€10.2m) compensation if they sack Conte, with sources in Italy claiming he could take a year off if the right opportunity does not present itself.

Their Champions League elimination this week has left Chelsea fighting to qualify for next season's tournament and trying to win the FA Cup, with a quarter-final against Leicester City next up on Sunday.

Fifth-placed Chelsea face fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur after the international break, but Conte's future is unlikely to be determined by what happens over the final weeks of the season.

Winning the Champions League may have forced owner Roman Abramovich to consider keeping Conte for the final year of his Chelsea contract.

But the FA Cup and a top-four finish are unlikely to outweigh the breakdown in relationships between Conte, the board and key players.

Dumped

The Italian dumped last season's top scorer Diego Costa by text and rowed with David Luiz following this season's Champions League group stage defeat by Roma.

And now there are fears that Conte's relationship with Hazard, who was once again substituted before the end of the game in the Nou Camp, is quickly deteriorating.

Chelsea players believe Conte's safety-first tactics have frustrated Hazard and that the Belgian is more likely to seek a move away from Stamford Bridge if the head coach stays on.

Chelsea remain desperate to tie Hazard down to a new contract and are prepared to pay him more than £300,000 (€340,000) a week, but he is likely to wait to see whether Real Madrid bid for him and weigh up Chelsea's managerial situation before making a final decision.

Asked by Italian reporters whether or not he could keep his Chelsea job by winning the FA Cup, Conte replied: "It's not an issue of winning a trophy or not. I think the work of a coach must be judged not on victories, but on the improvement of the squad and the current value of the squad."

Conte, along with Mauricio Pochettino, is on the shortlist to succeed Unai Emery at Paris St-Germain this summer.

Former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique, ex-Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel and Napoli's Maurizio Sarri are the front-runners to replace Conte at Chelsea.

© The Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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