Antonio Conte criticises attitude of ‘show must go on’ from governing bodies

Antonio Conte has criticised football’s key governing bodies for putting the “show” ahead of player welfare but urged his Tottenham squad to face their difficult situation with a smile when Liverpool visit on Sunday.

The Italian took aim at FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League and English Football League on Friday after watching the injuries mount up for his team in recent weeks.

Cristian Romero, Richarlison and Son Heung-min will definitely miss the clash with Liverpool and the trio are all in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup, which gets under way on November 20.

There are also doubts over Rodrigo Bentancur and Lucas Moura but Dejan Kulusevski could return this weekend after missing almost two months with a hamstring issue.

Conte has repeatedly criticised the decision by FIFA to play the World Cup mid-season but also took aim at the Premier League and UEFA for the “impossible situation” they have created with games every three days before he ended his press conference by questioning why the EFL has arranged the Carabao Cup fourth round to be a matter of days after the World Cup final.

“Many times I hear about the welfare of the players but it is only a polite way to show that you are really interested in the welfare of the players, because they are not really worried about the welfare of the players if the schedule is this,” he said.

“In every moment you show that the most important thing is the show must go on and then please I don’t want to hear in the future, to listen about people speaking about the welfare of the players because this is not true.

“We knew it was crazy to put a World Cup during the league and the Champions League. This type of schedule is crazy.

“Honestly, it is really strange in England that we start to play three days after the final of the World Cup. We are the only country to do it.

“Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and other countries, they are taking time to give rest and to breathe a bit. I find it crazy that December 21, after three days from the final, we are going to play a game in the Carabao Cup. I find this crazy.

“After three more days you have to play in the Premier League. The show must go on, this is the truth, but honestly I don’t like it.”

Son was the latest player to suffer an injury on Tuesday following a collision with Chancel Mbemba, which left the South Korea international requiring surgery on Friday to “stabilise a fracture around his left eye.”

Conte was unable to provide an update on the attacker but did reveal Kulusevski could play a part on Sunday.

Nottingham Forest v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – The City Ground
Dejan Kulusevski could be involved for Tottenham against Liverpool on Sunday (Mike Egerton/PA)

He added: “It is better to start with a smile. Yeah, we need to face this situation. I said also before we have to try to finish these three games in the best possible way.

“We have these injuries and I can confirm Richarlison is not available for the game. It is the same for Romero but Bentancur is much better. Today he was part of the training session.

“It was the same for Kulusevski, today he had half a training session with us. The problem is Lucas Moura is having some different faces for his pain in his tendon.

“Today he was really bad and he said to me he was really worried for this but I ask of him to try to be available because we need (him). Also, Sonny, you know, is now having surgery.

“At the end, we have to be happy for qualification for the Champions League.”

Spurs reached the last 16 of the Champions League following their midweek win at Marseille.

Romero sat out the fixture due to a calf issue and will again miss out on Sunday, but Conte refuted any talk the Argentina defender is missing matches to recover in time for the World Cup.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sporting Lisbon – UEFA Champions League – Group D – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Antonio Conte has rejected talk Cristian Romero is missing matches for Spurs in order to be ready for Argentina (Steven Paston/PA)

He insisted: “No, but about Romero I can tell you that for him, if I ask the possibility to play with one leg, he wants to play with one leg.

“For this reason I tell the fans we have players really committed for the club.

“Maybe Romero, he had an injury because he wanted to risk and we wanted to take a risk (against Sporting Lisbon). Then he had this injury but for sure many teams are having big injuries and this is because we are playing every three days.”