The end of Antonio Conte at Chelsea is one of those classic rumor-mill self-fulfilling prophecies, which, if you repeat enough times, will eventually come true. After all, Conte will not be at Chelsea for ever — I know, shocker, hope you were sitting down — and that’s before we look at the cold hard facts of Conte not holding a job longer than three seasons at any one of his previous assignments, and Chelsea, in general, changing managers as often as you change batteries in smoke detectors. Conte’s 18 months are already markedly above average (in line with his performance, obviously).
We might recall that just two months into his tenure, Conte was supposedly already in the firing line. And then he was supposed to leave over the summer despite winning the title, and then his family hadn’t moved yet, and then he forgot his suit in Italy, and then ... well, and then, he’s still here. He signed a new contract — no extension? he’s leaving! — got his raise to become the highest paid coach in Chelsea history, and still he’s ready to go to PSG or Real Madrid or back home to Italy or wherever the latest rumors might link him.
He’s leaving because of transfers; he’s leaving because of control; he’s leaving because of player power; he’s leaving because of ownership; he’s leaving because of Emenalo; he’s leaving because of Granovskaia; he’s leaving because the sky is blue; he’s leaving because the sky isn’t blue; he’s leaving because we didn’t win; he’s leaving because we didn’t score enough goals; he’s leaving because it’s a day that ends in ‘y’; he’s leaving because he’s leaving and he’s leaving because ... well, he’s leaving. The End.
Did I mention he’s leaving? It’s all anyone wants to talk about these days. Echo echo echo.
Another way to approach these stories is to look purely from a planning perspective. As soon as Conte was hired, somewhere, on some level, at least a basic framework of a succession plan should’ve been drawn up — precisely because no coach should be expected to last more than a few years and not just because of itchy trigger fingers on the eject button. Just like teams maintain a database of players and potential signings, teams should be maintaining a shortlist of managerial candidates at all times, of both the interim and non-interim kind. Based on some of Chelsea’s other Djilobodjian activities, I don’t necessarily believe we’re doing this very well or at all, but we certainly should be.
So, in that light, the Mail dropping two not entirely unexpected names, at least one of whom had been linked before, as potential Conte successors is par for the course. They are Max Allegri and the previously linked Luis Enrique. Since Allegri succeeded Conte at Juventus, I’m kind of enjoying that parallel, so let’s hope it’s him if push does come to shove. (The Evening Standard meanwhile add Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri into the mix instead of Luis Enrique.)
There is strong language in there from Matt Barlow (Chelsea “starting” the search; Conte “preparing” to move on; etc), but at the end of the day, it’s just another rumor in a line of many similar rumors. All this has been written before and will be written again many times. One day, one of them will come true and that will be annoying through probably not as annoying as all those who will loudly proclaim that “I told you so” as if correctly predicting that the Sun will rise tomorrow is worthy of applause.