Conte leads Chelsea to EPL title, but will he stay next season?

Jubilant Chelsea players throwing their manager Antonio Conte in the air after a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Friday night.
Jubilant Chelsea players throwing their manager Antonio Conte in the air after a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Friday night.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is already targeting his next trophy bid, even though his future remains uncertain with the English Premier League's (EPL) newest champions.

A 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Friday night - courtesy of a late goal by little-used striker Michy Batshuayi - gave the Blues their fifth EPL title with two matches to spare. But while Conte said his players should enjoy the success, he is already eyeing the league and Cup "Double" that will come with victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup final on May 27.

He added: "Last season was a bad season for the club, the players and the fans (as we finished 10th). Only one year later, to win in a league where there are big teams with great players and great managers, it's important to celebrate now.

"We have another target to try to reach because we worked very hard to reach the final of the FA Cup.This is a dream that has come true. For sure this is a dream."

Conte, 47, pinpointed the key moment in his side's season: back in September, when he responded to consecutive defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal by implementing the three-man defensive system that served him so well in his three Italian Serie A wins with Juventus.

"It was the key moment for us because every single player found this system the best for them," he said. "For this I want to thank my players because they trusted in new work and a new philosophy. I want to thank the club because they had faith in me and to repay the club is very important."

Conte's tactical and man-management brilliance, however, has attracted the attention of Italian giants Inter Milan, who are eager to persuade him to return to Italy and coach their floundering side, reported The Daily Mail.

Despite the Italian still having two years left in his £6.5 million-a-year (S$11.7 million) contract with Chelsea, Inter - who are owned by the Chinese retail giant Suning - are reportedly preparing an offer for Conte thought to be worth up to £12.5 million (S$23 million) a year.

But while Conte has said during the season that he misses his family who have remained in Italy, he has given no indication of wanting to leave Chelsea.

On the contrary, he has reportedly already started discussing potential off-season transfer targets with his Blues staff, while his family will be moving to London later this month.

Should he stay, he would then have to plan for a tilt at the trophy most coveted by Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich - the Champions League, Europe's elite football competition.

"It's important to prepare in the right way for next season," Conte said amid his celebrating players. With England conquered under his leadership, thoughts will quickly turn to hopes that the Italian can restore the Blues' challenge for top European honours.

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

SEE SPORT

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'Conte leads Chelsea to EPL title, but will he stay next season?'. Print Edition | Subscribe