Share This Post

Sports

Chelsea and Antonio Conte: A timeline of tension as manager finally departs

Chelsea and Antonio Conte: A timeline of tension as manager finally departs

Antonio Conte’s departure from Stamford Bridge has been a long time in the making. Tensions between the Italian and the Chelsea board over transfer policy have bubbled away for more than a year, compounded by clashes with senior players and a spectacular decline in form on the pitch in 2018.

Much of the damage to the relationship with his employers was done by Conte’s own public comments.

ESPN FC takes a look back at the key quotes that ultimately saw the Italian’s position at Chelsea go from perilous to untenable.

MAY 2017

No sooner had Chelsea lifted the Premier League title than Conte sounded a warning: He needed more players.

“We didn’t have a lot of injuries this season… I think this season we worked very hard, but we are also very good and we are also very lucky.”

AUGUST 2017

Chelsea’s summer transfer window didn’t go well, and Conte — who reportedly came close to quitting — was gloomy on the eve of the new season.

“For me, it will be the most difficult season of my career. For many reasons. It’s very difficult. I haven’t a lot of time to explain a lot of these reasons. But I’m sure about this. I have this perception and I hope I’ve made a mistake.”

The sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United particularly rankled, as Conte didn’t think new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko was ready to step in.

“My idea was to give Bakayoko the right time to adapt in this league behind Matic. But now after the sale of Matic, we need to try to accelerate this process for Bakayoko after his injury.”

DECEMBER 2017

As autumn turned to winter and fixtures mounted, Conte’s frustration at his lack of squad options — and Manchester City’s rampant form — boiled over.

“When you have a competitor like Manchester City that is winning every game it is very difficult to think you can win the title. People say talk negative or positive. It’s bulls—. I would rather tell the truth than a good lie.”

JANUARY 2018

The re-opening of the transfer market saw Conte faced with a barrage of questions about Chelsea’s recruitment policy, but he played down his influence.

“If the club ask me some names [of players to sign] I try to do this, but then it’s the club that decides the name, the investment, which is the best player for the team… you have to understand what your role is in the club.”

In an interview with Sky Italia he clarified his attitude.

“I’m not making any major demands [about transfers], also because my history says that I’ve never been satisfied with my demands. In fact, I’ve always arrived [at clubs] at times when there have been economic sacrifices being made.”

Alexis Sanchez went from Arsenal to Manchester United without Chelsea lifting a finger despite Conte describing the Chilean as a “good investment.”

“I like to talk about a situation that could be real, you understand? It’s not important to talk about Sanchez. He’s not our good problem, so why do I have to waste words on nothing?”

FEBRUARY 2018

Conte’s ramping up of transfer rhetoric coincided with a collapse in Chelsea’s form, and he pointed to results as vindication of his early-season pessimism.

“I think now we must be realistic and understand what our level is. We have to struggle to fight for a Champions League place… Then, in the future, if there is the possibility [to strengthen], you have to try to buy only two or three players — not eight players. Don’t forget, this summer we brought in eight players and spent a lot less than other teams who bought only two or three.”

He insisted that the board must take a share of responsibility for Chelsea’s slide, but did accept he could improve in one aspect of the transfer process.

“I think I’m a bit of a disaster to convince the club to buy the players. In this aspect I can improve a lot… I have to speak more with the managers who are very, very good to persuade their clubs to spend money and buy top players.”

MARCH 2018

Anger at City’s success became pointed praise as Conte maintained his criticism of Chelsea’s transfer strategy.

“When you link these two situations — a good manager and much money to spend in the transfer market — and have the same ambition, this [what City are doing] is the final result.

“I have great ambition, but I don’t have money to spend for Chelsea. The club knows very well what is my idea, what is my ambition. That ambition must always be the same. When you decide to work with this type of coach, you must understand that you take a coach with great ambition. Not a loser but a winner.”

He also had a withering response to the suggestion that Chelsea might find it harder to sign elite players if they missed out on a top-four finish.

“If you remember last season we won the title, and then you can see our transfer market. I think this is not the most important thing, if you win or stay in the Champions League.”

MAY 2018

His fate long sealed, Conte refrained from further incendiary remarks until after Chelsea beat United in the FA Cup final, when he made his defiant last stand.

“I think after two years the club knows me very well. If they want to continue to work with me, they know me. I can’t change. I think my past speaks very clear as a player and as a manager. You can [say] what you want, but I’m a serial winner… [Chelsea can make] the decision to charge me, [but] in two seasons I brought two trophies for this club.”

He also issued one final challenge to the Chelsea board to spend in pursuit of success this summer.

“I can find the right way to win this trophy but for sure if you ask me, we can play better… but now, the real situation of this club is this. We have to play strong defensively if we want to win a trophy or take a place in the Champions League. Today it was the only way to lift a trophy. Now we are in this moment. If we want to change we can change our idea, but we must change many players.” 

Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.

Share This Post

Leave a Reply