Antonio Conte admitted that “everything is possible” when asked about reports that Chelsea are lining up Luis Enrique or Massimiliano Allegri to succeed him at Stamford Bridge this summer.
A number of reports this week suggested that Chelsea are making plans for life after Conte. The Italian’s contract runs until June 2019, but he has been linked with an early exit from Stamford Bridge ever since coming into conflict with the club hierarchy over recruitment during a troubled summer transfer window.
Conte has largely ignored questions about his future this season, but when asked specifically about the reports linking Enrique and Allegri with his job, he replied: “Everything is possible. I have another year of contract at this club but in football everything in possible. Football is this.
“For the manager of this club, it is normal to have this type of situation. [Even] if you won the league last season and reach the final of the FA Cup, this is the history. I have a lot of experience to deal with this situation.
“There is something strange that after the first game we lost against Burnley the press pushed quickly to sack me. In other clubs, this doesn’t happen. I trust in my work and what we are doing in these two seasons. In football, anything can happen and you must be ready.”
Conte did, however, clarify that he is settled in English football. “I am happy and enjoying my period here,” he added. “It wasn’t easy [at the start] as it was my first experience in another country. I am enjoying to live in England and [work] with my players.
“I have another year of contract and in this case I think the club has to decide to send me away. We have started our work here. When you start the work, you need time to improve your work and have a solid basis.
“Football now is very difficult [to] predict if you stay for many years in one club. England is changing this equation. Before managers were in charge for many years, but now in England it is habit to sack early.”
Chelsea have made a fast start to the January transfer window by wrapping up a £15 million deal to sign Ross Barkley from Everton.
The 24-year-old is yet to make a Premier League appearance this season due a serious hamstring injury picked up in May, but he posted a video on Instagram that showed him participating in full first-team training on Friday, and Conte revealed that the midfielder is close to making his debut.
“[His situation] is more clear now,” Conte said of Barkley. “We must be satisfied for his physical condition. He is working hard these days and maybe then for the next game against Norwich [in the FA Cup third round] he could be available.
“I hope so. If he continues this way, why not? He is not ready 100 percent but he can help us for the rest of the season.”
Conte remains adamant that there will be no high-profile departures from Chelsea in January unless further signings are made, but he did indicate that Baba Rahman could be allowed to rejoin Schalke on loan for the rest of the season to complete his recovery from an ACL injury.
“Baba is recovering from a bad injury and I didn’t have the possibility to see him in training with us,” Conte said. “Only once or twice, but he wasn’t ready to train a full session. Now he’s recovering.
“It could be an interesting option for the player to try to recover with [Schalke]. Baba now is recovering, not ready at this moment to play. Otherwise, he would stay with us in my squad.”