ANTONIO CONTE spent the summer holidays swimming, snorkelling — and agonising over his future.
Even in Liguria, on the beautiful north west coast of Italy, it is impossible for a Premier League manager to relax.
Winning the title in his first season with Chelsea was exhausting, a strain on Conte and his family.
And the Italian admits he needed to decide whether to put himself through it all again at Stamford Bridge or consider options elsewhere.
He said: “I spoke with the club and we found the right view about the future. I decided with the club to continue our path.
“For sure, I enjoyed the season in England and with Chelsea.
“But I must be honest, it was very tough. It was a lot for me and for my family.
“It wasn’t easy for me. Sometimes when you win you think everything is easy, but it wasn’t.”
Conte may have looked refreshed and tanned on pre-season tour in China after his break — but there was a serious message behind the smiles.
He needs to add depth to a squad that had just 13 players make ten or more Prem appearances last season. That was why Conte’s phone never left his side while on holiday.
The Italian added: “We cannot make a mistake because it’s very dangerous.
“We need to improve and increase our squad and do something important for the present but also for our future.
“For every manager it is important to explain your ideas. It’s very important the club understand those ideas and are ready to work together.
“I can want this, but if I’m alone it’s very difficult.”
In the end, Conte decided to stay at the Bridge.
But the Italian agreed fresh terms instead of a contract extension, meaning he is only signed up for another two years. Conte was expected to land a new four-year contract as a reward for winning the title.
But he said: “I thought this is the right way, to continue to give me motivation, to give the club motivation.”
Regardless of the length of the deal, the 47-year-old says he is showing his commitment by moving his wife, Elisabetta, and daughter, Vittoria, to England.
He added: “To stay another season without the family would be very hard. My daughter is at an age when it’s very important to see her grow up.
“They are coming. We have to find the right solution, whether to continue to stay in London or closer to Cobham because there is an international school. But compare that to last season, when I was alone.”
Another change next season will be working without Diego Costa, which may reduce the stress levels.
Even if the Spain striker stays, he will be training away from the first team.
But there is hope he can finalise a departure that Conte decided upon in January.
Conte said: “Only one player is not important. The most important thing is the squad and it’s important to be together. You can’t just lose it over one player.
“In January, the situation was very clear for the club, for Costa, for his agent that in June it would be finished. Now we have to build with the new players and with the current players.”
That is why Conte’s phone was never turned off when he was on holiday.
The Blues chief is happy with bagging Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko so far, but that is just the start.
He bursts into laughter when asked if he will finish tenth like Chelsea’s last title defence.
“No, no,” he insisted. “For sure we have to improve and we have started to improve the squad.”
So much for a summer of celebrating the title while on holiday.
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