Chelsea won the league nearly three years ago to the day, and Antonio Conte still deserves a lot more respect from the fanbase than he receives.
Antonio Conte is now known around west London as the man who quit on Chelsea. Despite the endless “Antonio!” chants, the planes overhead spreading messages of support and the countless memories Conte brought fans, he is outcasted by Blues faithful today. The fans and club will drag the Italian’s name through the mud, but he’s too classy to return the petty remarks.
Conte put his heart and soul into a club which gave him little in return. Regardless, Conte should be remembered around Stamford Bridge as one of the greatest managers in the club’s history, if not the.
Over his two years at the club Conte tallied a record of 69-17-20. The Italian tallied a 65.09 win percentage, good for second in the club’s history behind Avram Grant. The Blues broke the record for most wins in a Premier League campaign with 30 on their way to a Premier League title during Conte’s first season in charge. He took a 10th place squad from the year before and won the league with them, handily.
The 2016/17 season is one of the most magical seasons in Chelsea history and Conte is to thank for that. His style wasn’t the most appealing to the fans and it certainly wasn’t beautiful football. However, it was effective and revolutionizing. The Blues dominated in a way fans hadn’t seen since Jose Mourinho’s first stint at the club. Conte was a true footballing genius and had plans to elevate Chelsea to the next level in Europe. Following the his inaugural campaign, he showed his commitment to the club by moving his family to London.
Unfortunately, after Conte established his side as one of the best in the world, the board failed to properly back him. The second season is the obviously blemish on his stint at Chelsea, but the struggles didn’t come out of nowhere. The experienced manager predicted that if the club didn’t bring in the players he wanted—like Romelu Lukaku and Alex Sandro—then the Blues would struggle.
To be fair to the board, the internal structure of the club was rocked by the exit of Technical Director Michael Emenalo. Regardless, the Blues had a world class manager who wasn’t properly backed.
Being the brilliant football mind he is, Conte still delivered a trophy when the Blues won the FA Cup. This brought his trophy tally to two in as many seasons. Further, he finished fifth in the Premier League, made the League Cup semifinals and the Champions League knockout stages. The job Conte did at Stamford Bridge is one of the most remarkable managerial jobs in the English top flight since 2000. In a short span, the Italian established himself as one of Chelsea’s greatest managers. With proper backing in the transfer market, he could’ve been the undisputed best Blues gaffers ever.
Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti are widely regarded as the gold standard of Chelsea managers, but Conte deserves a seat at the table as well. He’s got a better winning percentage across all games managed than either with worse teams. Conte did more with less.
In Mourinho’s most successful stint—2004 to 2007—he inherited a second place squad. Further, the club brought in legends like Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Ashley Cole to help Mourinho. Conte got Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta.
Ancelotti walked into a situation where Chelsea finished third in the previous season. Ancelotti—like Conte—captured a title in his first season as Chelsea manager. His legend comes from the Blues’ attractive style of play. His attractive, yet effective, offensive onslaught saw the Blues score 103 goals over the course of the season. While Conte’s tactics were far less attractive, Chelsea dominated opponents all the same.
All three managers played their parts in bringing an abundance of trophies to the club. Debating the greatest individual boss in Chelsea’s history is like a dog chasing its own tail—you can go round and round for hours, but you’ll end up where you started. However, if one thing is certain, it’s that Conte’s resume stacks up with the best to roam the touchline at Stamford Bridge.
Conte represents one of the biggest ‘what if’s’ in the club’s history. His passion for the fans and the club was an eternal flame that the board somehow managed to extinguish. Next time you hear someone slandering Conte, set the record straight—for Antonio.