Antonio Conte lifts the lid over Chelsea sacking ahead of cup reunion

‘We did a fantastic job with Chelsea’: Antonio Conte lifts the lid over his Blues departure as he returns to Stamford Bridge for first time since 2018 sacking tonight… as he admits winning Premier League and FA Cup was ‘NOT enough’ to keep his job

  • Antonio Conte returns to Stamford Bridge with Tottenham on Wednesday night
  • Italian won the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017 in his first season in charge
  • Conte went on to win an FA Cup in 2018 but was sacked after Blues finished fifth
  • He has had an immediate impact on Spurs since returning to the Premier League
  • Spurs face Chelsea in Carabao Cup semi-final chasing a first trophy in 14 years

When Antonio Conte strides onto the Stamford Bridge turf on Wednesday for the first time since he was sacked as Chelsea manager in 2018, his heart will start thumping through his chest.

The memories will come flooding back. The tub-thumping renditions of ‘Antonio’ that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end during his title-winning first season at the club are moments Conte reflect on with fondness.

The eventual unravelling of his reign during a tumultuous second season in charge was just as unforgettable for altogether different reasons. 

Antonio Conte will face his former side Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday

‘I think we did a fantastic job with Chelsea but sometimes it’s not enough,’ explained Tottenham boss Conte, ahead of his return to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.

Disputes over player recruitment were at the heart of tensions between Conte and Chelsea’s board, that were, by the end of the 2017-18 season, so palpable that there’s only ever going to be one outcome.

The summer of 2017 should have been one of gratification following their title success. Instead it was one dominated by discontent and in-fighting. 

Conte won the Premier League at the club in 2017 but was ruthlessly sacked just a year later

The Italian lifted the FA Cup in his second season in charge at Stamford Bridge before the axe

Conte was at odds with those above him in Chelsea’s chain of command. That summer Antonio Rudiger, Alvaro Morata, Danny Drinkwater, Davide Zappacosta, Tiemoue Bakayoko arrived.

But Conte didn’t agree with all of the signings. Instead of Morata, he wanted Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku. He preferred Kyle Walker to Zappacosta.

When Conte and Chelsea should have been basking in the glory of winning the league, they were no longer on the same hymn sheet.

Chelsea were furious with the way their Italian boss had dealt with the inevitable departure of Diego Costa; Conte – still angered by the way the way his striker tried to ditch his team’s title tilt for a move to China six months earlier – texting the Spain international that he no longer featured in his plans.

Conte was furious that the club appeared to be disregarding his recruitment advise; having won the title he felt he had earned the right to a greater semblance of control. 

Conte (right) was at odds with Chelsea’s board after the arrival of Alvaro Morata (left) in 2017

The Italian manager was also annoyed that the Blues signed Danny Drinkwater (left), Davide Zappacosta (middle) and Tiemoue Bakayoko (right) in that same transfer window

Of course, that isn’t the Chelsea way. But, equally, Conte will point to the fact that only Rudiger can be described as a success of that much-heralded £190million spend in 2017. 

Conte’s feelings towards the club’s recruitment strategy rose to the surface on the opening day of the season – the head coach naming 20-year-old academy prospect Jeremie Boga in his starting XI in the shock opening day home defeat to Burnley.

Untested youngsters Fikayo Tomori, Charly Musonda and Kyle Scott were also named on the bench that day.

It was a pointed show of Conte’s disgruntlement; it was certainly received that way by the Chelsea hierarchy.

The painful road to Conte’s exit had begun. In many ways, it was an achievement that Conte had even lasted to this point. 

Conte has had an immediate impact on Tottenham since returning to England in November

As ridiculous as it sounds, doubts were emerging inside the club’s corridors of power about Conte’s suitability following a run of four games without a win at the start of the 2016-17 season.

The 3-0 loss to Arsenal left Conte with massive questions to answer. He answered them emphatically: switching to a back-three and guiding the club to a 13-match winning streak in the Premier League.

The title soon followed. But 12 months later, even after an FA Cup triumph at Wembley, Conte and Chelsea were sick of the sight of each other.

Players departed for the World Cup openly talking about Conte’s expected departure and Maurizio Sarri’s appointment.

Conte knew his time was up; but he wasn’t prepared to make things easy for the club. Ridiculously, Conte even reported for the opening days of Chelsea’s pre-season programme knowing full well the club had no intention of retaining his services.

It was almost like Chelsea wanted the last laugh. Conte is hoping to be laughing last and the loudest on Wednesday.

Tottenham have won five and drawn three of Conte’s eight Premier League games in charge

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article