One does wonder how the narrative would look like if the linesman had just made the right call and allowed Alvaro Morata’s equalizer to stand. But he didn’t, so it wasn’t, and here we are, back in CRISIS. By the width of Morata’s shoulder hairs, Chelsea and Conte are teetering on the precipice once again. Life comes at you at whiplash-inducing speeds. Remember how much better we all felt after that performance against Barcelona? Yeah, no one does.
Then again, we knew this would happen. We should be familiar with how the media works, even the bigger, less tabloid-y outlets. And so as sure as Tuesday follows Monday, a loss on Sunday means CRISIS is back, with plenty of stories new and old. Here are the two biggest ones.
First, a bit of old news repackaged as new, with Italy sticking their nose in again to poke at the fleshy underbelly of Conte’s situation.
Chelsea’s Antonio Conte confirmed as Italy’s No 1 choice to be national coach https://t.co/BMwIMKI67w— The Guardian (@guardian) February 27, 2018
Brand new Italy Football Federation Vice-commissioner Alessandro Costacurta is at it again, talking about things that he’d like (Conte to lead Italy), but isn’t likely to make happen (last time this came up and Costacurta ran his mouth, Conte said in no uncertain terms that this was nonsense and the other AC had no idea what he was doing or talking about).
Same story, different day, as first reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I’ll definitely talk with him in a couple of months.”
Italy like Conte because he dragged a sub-par team all the way into the 2016 Euro quarter-finals, only losing to Germany in a penalty shoot-out. His coaching imprint was all over the way the team played — highly disciplined, defensively sound, target center-forwards the focus of moving the ball up the pitch. Sounds familiar, right? Frankly, it helped him get the Chelsea job. And now Italy want him back.
“[Conte] has already shown he knows how to be national team coach while the others haven’t yet.
“That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy with Mancini or with Ancelotti – although [Ancelotti] seems to have removed himself from consideration.”
Really, the only thing to take away from this story is that should the Conte apple fall from the Chelsea tree, Italy will gladly scoop him up. But talking to the man himself likely won’t help: he has insisted time and again that he’s determined to see his contract at Chelsea through to its end next season, and the primary reason he quit Italy in the first place was that international management was simply very boring and he wanted to live the day-to-day grind (and drama) of club management once again.
“In our line of work, we always have a bag packed. My intention is to remain here, but if something were to change, there would be several different scenarios opening up.”
“In 14 years, Chelsea have changed coach 10 times, so they do have a tendency to chop and change here. It’s no problem for me, in fact I really like pressure. I just hope it doesn’t affect the players.”
“I said very clearly, I have a contract to 2019. I intend to respect it. After that, anything can happen in football. I am happy at Chelsea, but both parties need to be happy.”
-Antonio Conte; Source: Mediaset Premium via London Evening Standard
There should be no worry about Conte managing to land a job after Chelsea — a sack by the Blues is an expected outcome for any head coach and most have gone on to even greater heights after getting theirs.
Meanwhile, we have Chelsea insider Matt Law’s latest dispatch in the Telegraph, unsurprisingly also concerning Conte’s future, namely a potential replacement (which Conte insist we won’t need because HE’S NOT [FUNNING] LEAVING). But there is CRISIS here, too, as Chelsea apparently can’t afford number one candidate Luis Enrique’s wage demands.
The staggering thing about this story is how much Law claims Luis Enrique was earning in his third and final year at the helm in Barcelona: £16.5 million a year. That’s more than Guardiola makes at Manchester City these days!
Chelsea pay their managers well of course, but that well? Conte is the highest paid in club history at £9.5 million-a-year on the improved contract from last summer. Pep is said to be on £15 million.
Luis Enrique netted one Champions League, two La Liga titles and three Cope del Rey trophies in his spell at Camp Nou. But apparently he’ll have to swallow a hefty pay cut if he wants access to the sidelines at Stamford Bridge. How can a man live on just seven figures? Who knows. The struggle is real.
What may be a blessing in disguise, the former Barcelona manager’s unrealistic demands could supposedly open the door for two other hot hot hot candidates as well, Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri and former BVB boss Thomas Tuchel. While the head-strong Tuchel sounds like trouble from the start, Sarri could be an intriguing option.
Of course we have no actual idea of how seriously Roman Abramovich and the board are considering — if they are at all — the possibility of replacing Antonio Conte. Abramovich of ten years ago might have sacked Conte four months ago. Abramovich of now? Who knows. We do know that since the large severance payouts to Roberto Di Matteo and Jose Mourinho (even after negotiating a reduced payout for what was then still a 3.5-year deal), Chelsea have started to manage even this side of the balance sheet more responsibly.
Until we get a firm sign from our inscrutable management — maybe they can try Vatican-like smoke signals? — we won’t know what they’re thinking. We do know that Conte claims he wants to stay. We also know that the season so far at Chelsea is right on the borderline of acceptable and sackable.
So until Conte and Chelsea start winning again, CRISIS mode will rage on unabated, the papers will gleefully pile on, and Chelsea Twitter will be watched through covered eyes.