Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matić apparently wants out of Stamford Bridge in body as well as spirit, which flew the coop last season. Antonio Conte, meanwhile, does not want Matić to leave the club. And so the two had a little tête-à-tête this week to work out how exactly things stood. Reports suggest that Conte has managed to convince the Serbian to stick around for the season, and so I thought that I could dig into what actually happened using the power of my imagination.
Scene — Antonio CONTE's office at Cobham. The furniture is spartan, chrome and white. On Conte's desk sits a single framed photo of Elisabetta and Vittoria Conte, as well as a golden statuette of Arrigo Sacchi. The door opens, and Nemanja MATIC walks in. The midfielder is attempting to avoid CONTE's eyes and is entirely successful as the manager, staring at the statue, does not look up.
Five minutes pass.
Five more minutes pass.
CONTE looks up for the first time, smiling.
CONTE: Ah. Nemanja. You wanted to see me?
MATIC: Actually I think you asked to see me.
CONTE: Whatever. What is on your mind, Nemanja? We don't have much time before the season starts.
MATIC: I'm starting to think my time at Chelsea might be coming to an end, boss.
MATIC: You see, my agent and I -
CONTE: Allow me to correct you on one point.
CONTE: You no longer have an agent.
CONTE: He had to step down. A family emergency, I'm given to understand. He asked me to pass on his regards.
CONTE: Anyway, you were saying?
MATIC: I know Juventus are interested, and I know they're a big club and you have history there. I really think it's time to move on and was hoping you might smooth the way towards letting me leave.
CONTE: Ah yes. You've been talking to Juventus, I know. In fact, an offer from them came in today and I personally feel that it's a very reasonable one. I spoke to Marina and Michael -
CONTE: Don't interrupt me, Nemanja. I spoke to Marina and Michael, and we agree that the offer — which Mr. Agnelli refused to negotiate on — was very close to what Chelsea feel would be a good price to let you go. We're inclined to say yes.
MATIC: Really? That's exciting news. I thought this would be more difficult.
CONTE: No difficulty at all, Nemanja. But as I was saying to Marina, since Juventus are offering about 95 percent of what we think is a reasonable price ... well, we believe it's only fair that they get 95 percent of the player.
CONTE: Which side of your face do you prefer?
CONTE presses a hidden button on the Sacchi statue, and a hidden panel in his desk slides open. It contains a row of shiny silver scalpels, clearly viciously sharp.
CONTE: Left or right, Nemanja? Then we can do the deal.
MATIC: Is this a joke?
CONTE: I assure you I have never told a joke in my life.
CONTE picks up a scalpel from the desk and idly slices into his own thumb. Blood pours out. CONTE does not appear to notice, eyes fixed on MATIC the whole time.
CONTE: Not quite sharp enough. Dull cuts hurt more, but we'll have to make do, since we don't have all day. Left or right?
MATIC: I don't think this is -
CONTE: Ah! So you do not want to go after all?
MATIC: I don't think I can agree to this deal. I don't think this is even legal.
CONTE: Legal? There is no legal in football. You either stay and play or leave under the conditions offered. We would very much like you to stay, but if you think your path leads elsewhere, by all means, take it.
Blood is now pooling on the desk under CONTE's hand.
MATIC: I don't have much choice, do I?
CONTE: You always have a choice, Nemanja.
MATIC: I'll stay.
CONTE: Excellent, excellent.
CONTE pulls an iPhone from his suit pocket, trailing blood onto the grey fabric, then makes a call.
CONTE: Diego, what's the status?
CONTE pauses as Diego Costa answers.
CONTE: No, no, there's no need for that now. What did you do?
CONTE winces as he hears the answer.
CONTE: Well Diego I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you might have exceeded instructions a little this time. No, no, it's fine. Don't worry about it. I'll see you at training tomorrow.
CONTE: Thank you.
CONTE turns back to MATIC.
CONTE: Nemanja, I think you need to go to your local furniture store.
CONTE: It appears that our friend Diego decided to pay you a visit just now, but finding that you weren't there, he made himself at home and got a little exuberant with your personal belongings.
CONTE: You know Diego. These things happen. But since you're staying around, Chelsea Football Club would be happy to refurnish your house. Possibly rebuild your house, now that I'm mentioning it.
CONTE: That will be all, I think. See you at training tomorrow!