Chelsea’s new manager Antonio Conte held his first press conference on Thursday. Here is EVERYTHING the former Italy coach said…
What do Chelsea need to win the title?
“This is the second day of training in Cobham, no. It’s fantastic to work in Cobham. In these two days, I saw the players with the right attitude, with the right behaviour. With a great will to fight for this shirt. To fight to come back very soon, to compete for the best position, to compete to win the title. After these two days, yes, I’m very glad to see these things. I think that it’s very, very important.”
John Terry has a ‘different role’. Does he? Will he still be the captain?
“No, John Terry signed a contract as a player, not as a different role. He is a captain of this team. He is a great player with a great personality, with great charisma. I like to speak with him because I know that he knows the club, the right spirit to play in this club. For me, he’s an important player like the other players, also. All the players know that I’ll see the pitch during the training sessions to choose my starting XI. When a player deserves to play, with me, he’ll play.”
Will he be captain?
“Yes. John Terry is the captain of Chelsea. When he plays, when he doesn’t play… You are always the captain. Always.”
How much influence or say did you have about John Terry staying for another year? Did you want him to stay?
“Yes. I picked that John Terry is an important player for me, for the club, for the fans, for all. He signed, yes, in May no? Yes. But all decisions we take together, all decisions: me and the club. Yes, I’m very pleased that John Terry signed a new deal with Chelsea. I’m very happy. I spoke with him, different times. And, for me, the most important thing was that, when he signed, John was very, very happy.”
The Premier League is difficult. Pressure you were under in Italy was to retain the title. Chelsea finished 10 last season. How much pressure are you under to deliver?
“But the pressure, for me, is not important. I was born with pressure. The pressure is not important for me. It’s normal, no? When you are a player, a footballer, or a manager of a great club like Chelsea, you must play to win. To win. To win the title. Or to fight and, at the end, to compete with the other teams to win the title and reach your targets. I know that this league is very, very difficult because there are six or seven teams who can win the title. For this reason, this situation is very, yeah, exciting for me. It excites me, this situation. We know that, this year, it won’t be easy for us because if we think about the last season and 10 position… Last season was a bad season, yes? We all know that: the players, the club. But we must think about the present, about working very hard, every day, every week, every month towards something important for the club and the fans. The fans need to find a team ready to fight until the end, and to compete with the other teams. Then, I know, that there is only one team who wins the title. But we must stay there at the end of the season, to fight for the title and be there for the Champions League. Chelsea belongs in the Champions League, and we must stay there.”
Players are already praising your tactical approach on the training ground. What do you have in mind for this team?
“We started to work under different aspects. I think that every manager has his own method, his own philosophy of football and idea of football. I want to transfer my idea to the players, my methods. I think that it’s important to work under different aspects, tactical, technical and physical aspects. And on their mentality to become strong and help us in terms of the difficulty in training sessions and in games. It’s important also that you must have players who give you a great ability to bring your idea of football and your methods (on to the pitch). At the moment, I’m very happy about this. I know I have players ready to fight, to play good football, to transfer our passion and emotion to our fans. This is the most important thing this year. Yes, win or lose, but if we are able to transfer our passion and enthusiasm to the fans, that will be a great victory for our fans.”
Are you going to play three at the back?
“That’s fantastic, this question… Usually, when I arrive in a new team, I value [evaluate]… I search to find the right positions for the players. When I was in Italy I liked to say, no, that the manager, the coach is like a tailor. A tailor who must build a dress, the best dress for the team. You have to respect their characteristics: the talent of the players. Then you decide. In the past, I started my season with the other teams with one idea of football, and then I changed because I saw that these players, or the system of play for these players wasn’t good. Three at the back, four at the back… it’s not important. What’s important for us is the right spirit for the team. That’s very important if we want to compete again for the title. To give a good organisation, too. To give good training on the tactical and physical aspects… I think I can improve a lot, my players. It’s important, I repeat, that there must be a great [empathy?] and I’m sure we can improve a lot through the work.”
Is this the toughest test as a manager in your career?
“I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s the most difficult challenge of my career. I know that when I arrived in Juventus, Juventus had just had two seventh places in the previous two seasons and then we built something. Something fantastic. We won the title in the first year, then in the second, third… Also the experience with the national team was fantastic, but also very, very difficult. You had a great pressure, from the media, of the whole country who follow you and see what you do. I think that this is a great challenge. I think that this is the right moment for me to arrive in England. In this tournament. Very, very tough. But I like this. I like the challenge. I like to prove myself in this situation. I’m sure that, with the players, with the club all together, we can achieve great satisfaction at the end of the season.”
Jose Mourinho was the Special One. Who are you?
“Okay… I’m not very good, I’m not very good to find a different name for me. I’m not very good (at that). I hope that, during the season, I’ll leave you this opportunity to find a new name for me. I hope to be a good name, not a bad name.”
What would be your key message to your players right now? What was the legacy you left behind at previous teams that you’d like to instil here?
“The most important message is that I’m a worker. I like to work. I like to work, and I know only this road to win. To go back, for this club to compete and to get back into the Champions League, to get back to winning the title, I know only this way: work, work, work. I’m very happy, though. I found the right attitude and right behaviours in Cobham. I’m very happy with this.”
Michy Batschuayi has only had one good season in France. How will he adapt to the Premier League?
“Yeah, absolutely (I expect him to adapt). He’s a young player but very strong, with good technique. He uses two feet. Great technique. Great talent. I’m very happy that Batschuayi joined us and I know the club bought a great player for the present and for the future.”
Passion… we all enjoyed watching you on the touchline at the Euros. Can we expect more of that in the Premier League?
“Yes, I’m this. I’m this. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I have a great passion for football, for my team, for my work during the game, but during training sessions I love to stay with my players and help them train together, to play with them, to win with them, to lose… I hope not so much… but yeah. I’m this. I have great passion and I want to transfer my passion to my players, but also to my fans. Because I also suffer during games. I want my players to see this, and the fans to see this. We work during the week very, very hard to reach our target, our victory, and when this doesn’t happen, I don’t like it. I’m not happy. But I find with all my strength to reach victory with my players.”
Do you want to make Chelsea the fittest team in the Premier League?
“Well, in the Premier League, this tournament is very tough on the physical aspect above all. High intensity. Very, very strong compared to other tournaments. I think that, if you want to win, you must play good football and attractive football, but you must also have good physical condition. Usually, if you have great organisation and you have great talent with the players, also you run more, then I think you have more probability to win. For this reason I like to work on all aspects: tactical; technical; physical; mentality. I think that’s important.”
When you were manager of Italy you said you didn’t get the support you should have had towards the end, and that contributed towards your decision to leave. Have you received assurances over support at Chelsea? If so, what?
“I think it’s very difficult to understand… Yeah, but… I decided to leave the national team after our qualification to the Euros because, yeah, I wanted to go back, to breathe the grass. To stay with my players. To improve them and stay, day by day, to work with them. Yes, for this reason I decided to go back to the club (game). Then I had this great opportunity here to speak with Chelsea, to speak with a great club. I’m very happy that we find a fantastic solution for me and for the club, to work together.”
Klopp, Guardiola, Mourinho, yourself… Era of the ‘Super Coach’?
“Yeah, it’s fantastic. In this league there are many, many players with great talent. Fantastic players. Also there are good managers. I think that it’s very important for the league, and for all. I think a good coach, a good manager, must improve his players and must work to improve all the situations in the club. For me, this situation is fantastic because, yeah, it’s a great challenge and I find great managers… For me, I’m very happy to be compared with them, but in this tournament it’s not a challenge between managers. Between great teams, between great players… these are the most important things. There are also great managers, good managers, but the most important things when there is a game, Chelsea v United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal… Tottenham also. All teams.”
What role will you play in incoming transfers?
“I prefer to speak always with my club. To take the decision together about some players, adapt our idea of football. It’s important to understand this: not to take the champions only because they are champions. We must take a player who can adapt to our idea of football, to our philosophy. It’s not right to say the names, no, because these players are now at other teams. I don’t like that other managers or other clubs speak about my players. I don’t like to speak the same (about theirs).”
Should Chelsea expect a revolution coming in here? Can we dub this ‘special work’?
“You guys know me well and know I try and bring across my philosophy and methodology. I’m delighted this club decided to do that. I hope we can achieve something big and can go back to challenging for the league title. But we know the league is much more difficult than other leagues. Elsewhere it’s between one or two teams. Here’s it’s really six or seven, and Leicester City showed last year summed it up. As for nicknames, we’ll leave that to your colleagues in the British press.”
Brexit? Can someone bridge the gap with Europe? Do you feel a political responsibility?
“There are a number of Italian coaches who represent our country in the Premier League, including Ranieri who achieved something absolutely extraordinary last season. We all do feel responsible for the image of Italy in this country, as well as our ways and customs.”
Have you spoken to Ranieri? Asked for advice?
“I didn’t have that much time. A week ago I was still in Montpellier with Italy and my mind was on the national team. I will call Claudio Ranieri in the days ahead for some advice, and he’s a lovely man. I am clued up on the customs of this country. I’ve come in with a low profile and a lot of respect.”
Is an Italian coach to win the Premier League again?
“I felt very emotional coming to Chelsea. It feels incredible to be here. I’m very proud, and I now I’ve worked very hard to get here. I’m also aware the league will be very competitive this season, from every perspective. I hope the Premier League title winners deserve to have taken the title home come the end of the season. We are under-rated a bit, and might slip under the radar, but I hope there’s a small flame flickering here that can hopefully grow into a blazing inferno.”
What will you bring with you from your experience with the Italy team? You’ve been compared with Mourinho over here, but do you share common ground?
“What I’ll bring with me from Italy is everything I’ve learned, technical experience from coaching and playing career. I’m very proud of everything I did there. This is a great responsibility for me, being Italian. I’ll do my best to make my fellow compatriots proud. I hope I can do that. It’s always tough to compare people. There are certain managers who are winners. On that I would agree with you. Regardless of the job they do, some coaches have a winning mentality besides their working methods and philosophies. There are winners in football, but not everyone has that in them. Those who do are, indeed, special.”