Sunday 17 December 2017

Pitch return delights Conte after painful transfer window

Antonio Conte. Photo: PA
Antonio Conte. Photo: PA

Miguel Delaney

One positive from the end of the transfer window for Antonio Conte is that he now gets to focus on what he most likes most about the job, where he most likes to do the talking: the training ground.

That's just as well because he certainly didn't want to do much talking in the Chelsea media room at Cobham yesterday - at least when it came to the market.

The Italian stonewalled questions on the club's general business, how so many players rejected them, Diego Costa and the curiosity over Ross Barkley's aborted move - other than to say that some of the reports about the Everton player and Chelsea were "ridiculous".

Chelsea may well revisit their interest in the Everton player in January, but the Italian was generally unwilling to revisit much else from this window.

Conte was asked whether he could have been more persuasive with some of the players who turned Chelsea down - like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

That led to one of his more light-hearted lines as he talked about whether it is important that a manager speaks with potential signings - and whether it was important to him when he was a player.

"I don't know if I was lucky or unlucky, but I lived only one transfer - from Lecce to Juventus (in 1991).

"I remember, Gianni Boniperti called me. Giovanni Trapattoni didn't call me. The chairman spoke with me and also with my mother.

"I was only 21 years old. To change totally your life, to go into another city alone, I think it was a great idea for the chairman to call my mother.

"The chairman wanted to make my mother have the right feeling for this transfer."

It was much the same when he ended up Juve manager - if without the maternal influence.

"When you stay at Juventus and every single player wants to come, they arrive whether or not they speak to the head coach. If a player has great desire to play for a great club, he signs.

"When I was at Juventus, players signed for Juventus. Not for the manager."

Is it a concern for Chelsea's future that certain players didn't come?

"Honestly, I like to think about the present… Now I'm happy. Very happy to work with my players. We tried, I repeat, to improve our squad and will try to do our best for the whole season. After this season, everyone will have more answers.

"I think that I have always told you that I'm a coach and I like to work with my players to improve my team. My work finishes on the pitch."

That is where he has the true last word and he will be hoping that it brings a smile to Chelsea's supporters at Leicester today. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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