Antonio Conte has reopened his war of words with Jose Mourinho after aiming a thinly-veiled dig at the Portuguese coach — and hinted he was “not convinced” by Tottenham’s offer to replace him.
The 50-year-old was understood to be unhappy with the club’s decision to sell some of their prized assets to raise funds after being hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Conte had emerged as a frontrunner to take the vacant position at Tottenham after Mourinho was sacked in April before talks broke down with chairman Daniel Levy last week.
It would have marked a controversial move due to his previous ties with the Blues and succeeding Mourinho too, after their public row while he was Manchester United boss.
Among the various jibes and less subtle public remarks between the pair, Conte suggested Mourinho was “demenza senile” in 2018, the Italian term for senile dementia, which only exacerbated the feud.
And the experienced tactician could not resist having another pop at his managerial counterpart, who will take over as head coach at AS Roma in 2021-22, suggesting his methods often leave his players feeling drained.
In a wide-ranging interview with Gazetta dello Sport, he said: “Some people squeeze every last drop out of their players, leaving behind top players that have given absolutely everything and have nothing left in the tank.”
Conte has emerged as one of the most impressive coaches in the world in recent years. He revitalised underperforming squads at Chelsea and Inter before turning them into domestic title winners, on the back of three successive Serie A titles with Juventus.
When asked why clubs see him as an attractive hire him, Conte claims that he sets “high standards” when he arrives at club.
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“I set high standards for myself first and foremost and then everyone else. I don’t play just to take part, I play to win.
“That’s why people hire me. They expect me to win trophies and there’s no hiding place for me. People’s expectations change if I’m at the helm.”
After a fallout with the Chelsea hierarchy over transfers and leaving Inter over selling their star players, Conte reiterated that he will not take on a job if they do not agree with his proposed vision.
“In general, I like challenges and I have shown that I have always accepted a lot of them, because even the big clubs I had never started as favourites when I took them,” he said.
“But if there is something that does not convince me, I prefer not to accept or continue beyond any proposed engagement.”
“I would have accepted compromises and maybe even signed a new deal to become a ‘gold-plated lightning rod’. Yet I’m willing to sit at home if I’m not convinced by the club’s plans.
“It’s all about vision, professionalism, integrity and principles that are non-negotiable.”