The second international break of the season is giving clubs a chance to evaluate where they stand and a number of high-profile teams may not like what they see right now.
Manchester United are one. They’re in eighth place and already seven points down from the league-leading unbeaten trio of Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Mourinho may or may not have actually staved off his sacking with last weekend’s comeback win over Newcastle. Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich, four points off the pace in an embarrassing sixth place in the Bundesliga, are another. The whiff of Real Madrid also hangs in the air after Julen Lopetegui only managed to win 14 of a possible 24 points and languishes in fourth.
All three head coaches are in deep trouble, to say the least. Chelsea may be famous for a short leash and a quick trigger, but Real Madrid practically invented this concept back in the ‘90s and Bayern had no qualms about sacking Ancelotti at the end of September last year, despite better results and a much better pedigree than the current coach. Even stodgy old Manchester United may not be immune to the powers of the Mourinho Third Season.
Meanwhile, like a specter in the background, there is a manager who could step into any of these jobs and not be out of place. In fact, one them had already offered him the job just a few months ago. With five Serie A titles and a Premier League crown on his curriculum vitae, Antonio Conte would be one of the first names a big club would look at if they decided to make a change.
And Chelsea are monitoring this situation with keen interest.
The interest stems from the unseemly situation of Chelsea stiffing Conte and staff on their severance payments (minus Paolo Bertelli who stayed on). In an unprecedented move, Chelsea claimed “just cause” in sacking them, and thus withheld any and all compensation due as per their contracts. For Conte alone, that amount would’ve been around £9m, but all his staff were due (much lower) payouts as well.
Conte, unsurprisingly, has initiated legal action against the club since then. But if he were to get hired by another team, the situation could potentially be resolved without causing any further embarrassment and we could finally close the books, literally, on this unedifying chapter in our history.
As per Matt Law’s report, only if Conte were hired by another team in England — i.e. Manchester United — would he forfeit the remaining balance of his severance (so a little over a half right now, depending on when he’d take the job). If a club on the continent hires him, that clause doesn’t apply, though Chelsea might use it as an argument should the dispute ever end up in court (which it probably won’t, but it still might speed a settlement along).
But an Antonio Conte backed by the financial might of a Manchester United is a scary proposition indeed. For the sake of our own future title hopes, we should prefer that maybe Real Madrid try him again. Or Bayern. Or AC Milan. Or anywhere else, as long as it’s not in the Premier League. Conte does bring some baggage with him — he left his last two clubs, Juventus and Chelsea, amid front office strife — but sometimes, needs must. If one of these clubs doesn’t see an improvement, they might start getting desperate for points. Few managers over the past decade have proven better at getting points than Conte.