LONDON — Antonio Conte has said he would appreciate a public statement of support from the Chelsea hierarchy amid renewed speculation that he could be sacked, adding that he is open to the possibility of holding talks about a contract extension in the summer.
Wednesday’s 3-0 home loss to Bournemouth saw Chelsea slip to fourth in the Premier League and prompted reports that Conte’s job could be in jeopardy, which he then compounded by insisting that he is “exploiting this squad at the maximum level” this season.
Tensions between Conte and the Chelsea board have been bubbling since last summer, when the Premier League champions failed to secure their head coach’s priority transfer targets Romelu Lukaku, Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro and were instead left scrambling for squad reinforcements in the final days and hours of the window.
Conte feels the constant speculation about his future — dating back to a shock opening-day defeat to Burnley in August — is unfair and admitted that he would like senior figures at Chelsea to publicly dispel any suggestion he could be sacked; the only Blues boss to receive such a public show of support in the Roman Abramovich era was Jose Mourinho in October 2015, two months before he was dismissed.
“I must be honest, when there are these type of rumours or speculation after the first game of the season against Burnley… maybe I’d like the club to prepare a statement for me, no, to say they trust me in my work and my job,” Conte said.
“At the same time, I know this never happened in the past, so why should I hope for something different? But, for sure, I’d like to have a statement of support against this speculation.
“In the past this never happened, so it’s a big challenge to change the approach now. But, for sure, I’d be glad. You only have one person to speak [against these reports right now].”
Sources have told ESPN FC that Chelsea have no plans to issue such a statement.
The growing expectation around Stamford Bridge is that Conte will leave at the end of the season, despite the fact that the Italian’s current contract runs until June 2019.
Yet despite making numerous public comments questioning Chelsea’s transfer policy and financial capabilities relative to their rivals in recent weeks, Conte insisted that he is open to prolonging his stay at Stamford Bridge — though he does not want to be seen as “opportunistic” by pushing for a new deal through the media.
“We have the time to make the best decision,” Conte added. “I’m giving all of myself, me and my staff and my players, for this club. We are doing the maximum for this club. If the club understands this and the club wants to extend a new contract, we can talk. Why not?
“But I don’t want to be an opportunist. I don’t like to try to push with the press for a new contract. My contract expires in 2019. My desire and my will are to continue to work with this club.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.