Viruses have names. The flu sweeping Britain is called the Aussie virus. The virus sweeping the United States has the sexy appellation Influenza A H3N2. Chelsea fans have a virus too; it’s called Antonio Conte’s Future. And the prognosis for recovery varies from report to report, week to week, game to game — though in the final reckoning, it’s probably fatal anyway.
The latest fever spike came in late January and the beginning of February (bad luck is a Pisces!) when Chelsea slumped to consecutive defeats against mid-table mediocrity in Bournemouth and Watford. That’s when lists of Conte replacements began circulating, with the Daily Telegraph even setting odds (Luis Enrique 2/1, Massimiliano Allegri 5/1, Maurizio Sarri 10/1, Frank “Doesn’t have his coaching badges yet” Lampard 40/1).
But the first symptoms may have appeared as long as a year ago, when the clash with Diego Costa led Conte to give the board an ‘either he goes or I go’ ultimatum, if Jonathan Kydd of the Chelsea Fancast (and man who sometimes sits next to Bruce Buck at Chelsea matches) is to be believed.
In April of 2017 it wasn’t failure but success that fed the fever. The brother of Conte’s agent and Conte bestie, a man named Andrea Pastorello, foot firmly planted in mouth, suggested that Inter and new owners Sunings Holdings group, might lure him away.
“Will Conte stay at Chelsea? If he wins a title and begins the cycle, the objective is one of continuity. But if offers from clubs arrive, new opportunities may arise, especially at historical clubs.”
-Andrea Pastorello; source: Guardian
Conte shot that one down immediately. But in August the rumors were back. This time they claimed that Conte was undecided about his future with Chelsea and unhappy with the transfer dealings. And as Chelsea have slogged through a decidedly up-and down campaign since then, the fever has never truly abated.
So is there a doctor in the house? Anyone who can cure what ails us? Enter Conte’s agent, Federico Pastorello. He can’t speak for Chelsea management, of course. And Conte doesn’t like it when others speak for him. But Pastorello does have some good news for the Chelsea fans who lustily sign “Antoniooo, Antoniooo!” at every match, home and way.
“Conte has already been through that experience and prefers to work with the squad on a daily basis.
“I see him at Chelsea next year, as he has a contract valid for another season-and-a-half and doesn’t like to leave things unfinished.”
-Federico Pastorello; source: Rai Sport via Metro.
That fits well with what the Chelsea gaffer himself has said repeatedly. His mantra has been that he plans to stay and finish building something important.
But does this mean that the job will be finished in 2019? Is three years the most we can reasonably hope for Conte, or any other Chelsea manager? After all, only José Mourinho lasted beyond a second campaign at Chelsea and only in one of the two stints did he make it to a fourth.
Should Conte survive the summer, he could of course agree a new contract extension. And then we would begin the rumor-cycle and speculation anew.