Antonio Conte spoke to the media ahead of Chelsea’s game against Swansea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The Italian’s side left the Liberty with a point after a 2-2 draw in September and are facing a Swansea side under new management, with former Chelsea assistant manager Paul Clement now in charge.
Despite the game ahead, Conte faced questions on the surprising dismissal of fellow countryman Claudio Ranieri by Leicester City the previous day.
Speaking on the matter, Conte said: “My reaction is very sad because this is our job and for sure I am disappointed for him. First because I am a friend and he is a good man and a good manager.”
“He reached a dream to win the title and for sure I am disappointed as a friend and as a coach,” he said. “It’s a very strong decision.”
With rumours circulating that many of the Leicester players were behind Ranieri’s sacking, Conte gave his opinion, saying:
“I don’t like to follow this type of story because I think it is not right and it is a lack of respect for Claudio.”
“I think that it’s not right that the players decide that the manager must be sacked or not. If this happens it means that the club is poor.”
Ranieri’s dismissal means that four of the last five title winning managers have been sacked, with Mancini, Pellegrini, Mourinho and now Ranieri having been shown the door. Speaking on the possibility of being sacked himself, Conte said:
“If you remember very well I was already sacked this season because of the bookmakers.”
“First of all, I think it is important to finish this season in the best way and if we are able to reach this dream, for me and for the players. Yeah, I’m ready to face this risk.”
Conte has only been sacked once in his career, when he was manager of Arezzo in Serie B. After a disappointing run of results in the 2005-2006 season, Conte was let go of in October, but reinstated in March of 2007. Speaking on the experience, he said:
“For me it was traumatic because for me it was the first experience as a coach and as a manager.”
“In that period, I tried to study and see the work of other coaches and managers to study new ideas.”
Many fans and pundits alike have put much of Conte’s success this season down to Chelsea’s lack of European football, with the side having finished 10th in the last campaign. Despite that, Conte said:
“To watch Champions League and Europa League on television is not good for me or the players. We want to stay there and play for something important.”
“To watch the others [teams] play in this competition is not good,” he said. “But we have this situation because of last season, not because someone invented this situation.”
With less football to play, Chelsea have often had more time to rest between fixtures than their rivals. Despite this, Conte insisted that it hasn’t been such a big factor in his side’s success:
“I think the real advantage was before,”
“When you arrive in a new team and you bring your philosophy and method of work, you need to work overtime.”