KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte appeared resigned to the fate of an imminent departure from Chelsea despite their 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup Final at Wembley but he went down fighting, verbally at least.
Conte has been the subject of speculation over a summer sacking – one year ahead of his contract expiration – ever since it became clear by the end of last year that the Premier League defence would end only in failure. Rumours increased after the Blues’ exit from the Champions League and his own oft-repeated dissatisfaction with the club’s transfer market operations.
Victory in the FA Cup, as with Louis Van Gaal at United two years ago, was not expected to save Conte.
Thus he expressed a range of mixed emotions after the final ranging from pride in his players and his own record down to an acceptance that whatever may happen is out of his hands.
Reviewing the match, Conte said: “I’m very satisfied because it was very difficult to win in this moment against a really strong team like Manchester United so we must be played. I’m very happy for our fans, for my players and especially for the players to an important trophy in this season that was very difficult for many reasons.
Conte, pressed on his own relationship with the club going forward or not, added: “When you are used to win every season there are moments when you have a lot of questions for yourself but even in a difficult season like this I showed I am a serial winner and to win in this way has given me more satsfaction that other wins in the past.”
The Italian insisted his commitment to the club and his contract had never been in question. The issue of Chelsea’s loyalty to him was another matter.
Cont said: “Our job is not simple and I understand that the club can make a negative decision but I am the first to understand, as coach of a great and important club in England and the world, that the club demands a lot of me.
“I have great respect for my club who will make the best decision and I’m the first to accept every decision for the future because for sure, after these two seasons, I will always love these colours, these fans, this club . . . and also if my future must be in a different way.”