‘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
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
Of course, that isn’t…