Antonio Conte confident Tottenham will not sack him as Spurs boss makes ‘provocation’ claim

Antonio Conte confident Tottenham will not sack him as Spurs boss makes ‘provocation’ claim

Antonio Conte is confident he will not be sacked by Tottenham before the end of the season and has insisted he was joking when he suggested that could be the case after last week’s Champions League elimination by AC Milan.

Speaking after the 0-0 draw with the Serie A champions, Conte said: “I have a contract about to expire and let’s see how the season ends. Maybe they can send me away even earlier. Perhaps the expectations were higher and [the club] may be disappointed.”

The Italian is widely expected to part ways with Spurs in the summer at the end of his contract and their elimination from the FA Cup and Champions League in the space of a week raised the possibility that he could leave even sooner.

Spurs have begun succession planning, with managing director Fabio Paratici drawing up a shortlist of replacements for Conte.

But asked ahead of Saturday’s visit to Southampton if he still feared the sack before his deal is up, Conte said: “[My comment] was a provocation, you understand, about my future. A provocation, a joke, ‘una battuta’.

“When you tell something, to joke. You [the media] asked me about the future and I said to you that you don’t know what happens. Because maybe the club can sack me.

“But I repeat: I don’t think the club is thinking this. The club sees everyday what me and my staff, we are doing for this club. It was only an answer about my future.”

Asked if he had been given assurances by the club that he would remain in post until at least the end of the season, Conte added: “I think there is not one club that can tell the manager, ‘You stay here until the end of the season’.

“Football is really strange. you don’t know what happens tomorrow. But I repeat: in my opinion we try in every moment to do everything, me and my staff.

“And I think the club appreciates this. Because if you continue to ask me if I sign a new contract, it means that maybe the club appreciates what we are doing, the work that we doing, in this one year and a half.”

With 11 games to play, Spurs are well-placed to match last season’s fourth-place finish and Conte believes there are seven teams competing for two spots in the top four: Manchester United, Spurs, Newcastle, Liverpool, Brighton, Brentford and Chelsea.

He added that the struggles of sixth-placed Liverpool, who trail Spurs by six points with a game in hand, this season underline the strength of the Premier League, which the Italian says will soon become “like the NBA”; in other words, an ultra-competitive division, which anyone is capable of winning.

Antonio Conte believes Liverpool’s struggles show how strong the Premier League is (AFP via Getty Images)
Antonio Conte believes Liverpool’s struggles show how strong the Premier League is (AFP via Getty Images)

“Don’t forget that Liverpool last season were on a fantastic run to win everything,” Conte said. “They lost the Champions League Final, finished 2nd in Premier League with one point less than Manchester City. They won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

“We’re talking about a big, big team used to winning.

“Liverpool’s situation underlines the difficulty of Premier League. I read that [Manchester City boss Pep] Guardiola said in every game this season you risk dropping points. Because every team is going to improve the squad. Look at Nottingham Forest, they have changed 22 players from last season.

“Every team tries to improve, to be strong. I think that Premier League is going to become the NBA in the future. You have to be prepared, otherwise you risk playing without silverware.”

Conte has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to rock bottom Saints, with club captain Hugo Lloris (knee), Rodrigo Bentancur (ACL), Yves Bissouma (ankle) and Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring) still sidelined.

Fraser Forster will continue to deputise for Lloris against his former club but Conte says the Frenchman will return to the side when he is fit, despite the understudy’s solid displays in goal.

“I think he [Forster] was a fantastic signing for the club, honestly,” Conte said. “He’s showing he deserves credit. Hugo is our ‘keeper but before coming back he has to get well. We don’t force the situation because Fraser is playing well and it won’t be good for Hugo or us.

“We’re really happy with Fraser but at the same time when Hugo is ready he will be our ‘keeper.”