‘Conte to Chelsea does not make sense’

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New Chelsea manager: Who is Antonio Conte?

Chelsea appointing Italy boss Antonio Conte as Jose Mourinho’s long-term replacement does not make sense, says ex-Blues striker Chris Sutton.

Mourinho, 53, was sacked in December amid suggestions he had fallen out with several senior players.

Conte, who arrives with a reputation as a disciplinarian, will take over in the summer after signing a three-year deal.

“If he comes in and starts hitting the players with a whip are they going to respond?” said Sutton.

Under Mourinho, Chelsea won the Premier League title by eight points last season and also lifted the League Cup.

But they lost nine of their opening 16 league games this term and were 16th in the table, one point above the relegation places, when Mourinho was sacked.

Former Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink, who was appointed as Mourinho’s replacement until the end of the season, has not lost any of his 15 league games in charge.

However, the Blues have turned to Conte – who will arrive after Euro 2016 – as their new long-term head coach.

“Chelsea have a good option of keeping Hiddink,” Sutton, 43, added on BBC Radio 5 live. “It is working under him – the team have improved beyond all recognition.

“Bringing in a similar type of manager to Mourinho in Conte doesn’t make any sense to me.

“If the players have downed tools before there is every suggestion that, with Conte coming in and being a similar type to Mourinho, they will down tools again if things aren’t going well.”


Conte led Juventus to their first silverware following a match-fixing scandal after taking over in 2011

‘Conte similar to Mourinho at his very best’

Conte won the Serie A title in each of his three years as Juventus boss, before leaving to take over the Italy national team in 2014.

And former Chelsea players Andy Townsend and Pat Nevin both believe the Blues have made a “good appointment”.

“I don’t think Conte will be far removed from what Jose was like at his very best,” said former Republic of Ireland midfielder Townsend.

“Jose captured the attention of the players when he arrived. There was an intensity about what he did, the players responded and enjoyed working under that sort of regime.

“I feel Conte will do the same.”

Ex-Scotland winger Nevin added: “People think of him as a one-system manager. He’s not. He’s always been very adaptable.

“Chelsea are going through a serious transitional period and he’s got to sort it out.”

Could Conte’s arrival keep Terry at Chelsea?


Terry has won four Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League with the Blues

One of Conte’s first jobs at Stamford Bridge could be to make a final decision about John Terry’s future.

The Chelsea captain, 35, is out of contract in the summer and says he has not been offered a new deal.

But Townsend believes Conte’s arrival could help extend the former England defender’s stay at Stamford Bridge.

“If Conte turns up and wants to play three centre-backs then I don’t see why John couldn’t play for another 12 months in that system,” he said.

“Conte had Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini at Juventus – three very experienced players – so he is not against having experienced players around him.”

Sutton added: “They have got to keep John Terry at the club in some capacity. I think Conte will keep him purely on his playing ability.”

‘Top players won’t come to Chelsea’

Conte would not have taken the Chelsea job had he not been promised funds to transform the squad by Blues owner Roman Abramovich, believes Sutton.

But the former England striker thinks the Blues will struggle to attract top-class players without the lure of European football.

Chelsea, who won the 2012 Champions League and 2013 Europa League, are 10th in the Premier League, 10 points adrift of the top four.

“Who is going to want to go to Chelsea?” said Sutton, who also played for Norwich, Blackburn and Celtic.

“How are they going to attract good players?

“If you want to play Champions League football you go to best teams. Chelsea are going to find signing top players tough.”

‘Conte won’t tolerate prima donnas’

After Mourinho’s sacking, Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said there had been a “palpable discord between manager and players”.

But Nevin does not believe that former Italy international Conte will alienate players with his approach.

“He was a very strong midfield player, he could go and mix it with the best of them so he isn’t going to be any shrinking violet,” said Nevin.

“I suspect if anyone wants to be a prima donna they probably ought to get out now if they possibly can.

“He has dealt with top players like Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba so he can deal with all sorts.”

Can Conte get the best out of Hazard?

Eden Hazard was one of the stars in Chelsea’s title triumph last season, winning the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award after scoring 19 goals in all competitions.

But the Belgium midfielder, 25, has struggled to replicate the same form this season.

“Conte will have sat in front of Roman Abramovich and said ‘I’ll get more out of Hazard, I’ll get him back to his best’,” said Townsend.

“If I was Conte I would be saying ‘don’t give him away to Real Madrid or Paris St-Germain, I’ll get him going again’.”

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