LONDON — Antonio Conte insisted that he is not worried about the possibility of being sacked if Chelsea fail to finish in the Premier League’s top four this season.
Chelsea, currently fifth in the table, face fourth-placed Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday knowing that anything short of victory will leave them with no more than an outside chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Conte has long argued that a top-four finish is Chelsea’s most realistic target this season despite their Premier League title triumph in 2016-17, but the Italian added that his future at Stamford Bridge will be out of his hands if the Blues find themselves exiled from Europe’s elite club competition.
Asked if he feels he will be sacked if Chelsea finish below the top four, Conte replied: “I must be honest, I don’t know. This is not my problem [to worry about]. It’s a problem for the club. It’s not my problem.”
Conte is widely expected to leave Chelsea this summer after months of escalating public tensions over transfer strategy, and he declined to commit himself to the Blues beyond this season when it was put to him that summer signing Davide Zappacosta would like to see him stay.
“I think as you know very well it is more simple for the player to know if in the future he can stay here,” Conte added. “Our job is totally different. For us it is not sure. You can have a contract but you don’t know what will happen after one or two games. We depend a lot on the result.”
Conte did, however, elaborate on what he meant by his claim that Tottenham are ahead of Chelsea in terms of the “project” that is progressing under Mauricio Pochettino.
“I can have a great admiration for Tottenham because everyone can see their good work they are doing in this years,” he continued. “To compete for the title in every season is not simple especially in England. I have plenty of admiration for the work they are doing, they are doing a great job.
“Don’t forget in the last two or three years we lost important players for Chelsea. When you lose important players with great experience and charisma and players used to win you lose a lot.
“Before to replace this type of player you need to have passion, and then to improve the young players and to improve their mentality, their charisma, to have new players ready to fight and win something important.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.