ANTONIO CONTE had a favourite phrase when he needed reassuring that he was doing a good job at Juventus.
If big spenders Inter Milan put the pressure on, he reminded the Agnelli family just how well he was doing with limited resources.
“You don’t go into the best restaurant in town if you only have a few euros to spend,” was the gist of Conte’s argument.
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Whatever the financial restrictions at Juve, he still won three successive Scudettos after replacing Gigi Delneri in 2011.
It is an impressive record. Nobody disputes it.
At Chelsea, he is on the verge of winning the Premier League title in his first season in English football.
Conte can win the title, perhaps even the Double, with class and dignity.
The Italian coach, the reason Tottenham and Arsenal have experimented with his 3-4-3 system, has nothing to be insecure about.
For some reason Conte strayed into dangerous territory ahead of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton by talking about the spending habits of his rivals. No need, Antonio.
The job is almost done, with Chelsea four points clear of Spurs and way out of the reach of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal.
United and City have out-spent their rivals over the past three years — but that is not really Conte’s business.
They are entitled to the money, with the majority of the income derived from commercial activity and Premier League prize money.
Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho can waste it on whatever they want.
Since the summer of 2014, City have a net transfer spend of £384million, United £278m, Arsenal £191m, Liverpool £68m, Chelsea £58m and Spurs £58m.
City and United will top that list again in the summer when the annual arms race resumes. Over at Chelsea, they are balancing the books.
Poch is almost three years into the project at White Hart Lane and is still without a trophy.
It is a fair point but Tottenham managers work under different demands to those at Chelsea.
The West Londoners’ expectations at the start of each season since 2003 have been to challenge on all fronts — to win the title and make inroads in the cup competitions.
Tottenham have only just got to that point.
Conte still has the upper hand, putting the Blues’ bitter rivals Spurs in their place last weekend with a thumping 4-2 win.
Much was made of Tottenham’s performance but they conceded four times in 90 minutes — when Chelsea had Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench for an hour.
Conte, with the exception of early-season defeats to Liverpool and at Arsenal, has barely put a foot wrong.
He has a phrase at Chelsea — “remember where we came from” — as if they had never won a thing before he arrived last summer.
Last season’s tenth-placed finish was an anomaly, a one-off after the catastrophic start to the season under the Special One.
He is adored by Chelsea fans, with “Antonio, Antonio” ringing around the stadium on their way to another win against Saints on Tuesday.
They love the guy, warming to his character as he has turned Chelsea into a ruthless winning machine again.
At a club with a fearsome reputation for hiring and firing managers, he is doing a good job. If he needs convincing, he only has to look at the table.
Barton betting FA-ilure
HOW many Joey Bartons are there? Not many, you would venture.
How many Joey Bartons with a registered Betfair account would think to bet on their namesake notching the first goal against Fulham?
How many Joey Bartons would think it a good idea to bet against their own team-mates and pals winning a football match?
Only one Joey Barton who would do something as dopey as this.
So it seems remarkable that the former footballer registered a Betfair account in his own name in 2004 and the organisation failed to red flag him.
The account was in operation for 12 years before the FA finally caught wind of his gambling habits — which included more than 1,200 punts on football matches.
It is Barton’s responsibility to read the small print, to be aware that he is breaching regulations by placing bets on football matches.
In future there must be better communication between betting firms and the FA, along with their clients, after Barton was clobbered with an 18-month ban from all football activity.
The tragedy is that this could have been stopped sooner.
THE League Managers’ Association will recognise Chris Wilder at their annual dinner next month with an award to mark his second successive automatic promotion.
Wilder deserves recognition after taking up Northampton and Sheffield United in successive seasons.
LMA brains believe Wilder is the only one of their members to go up automatically with two different teams inside a year.
This Hollo victory
QPR fans will have you believe Ian Holloway is a far better manager than either Chris Ramsey or Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Closer inspection of their records suggest something different — with Holloway losing 17 of 29 games since returning to Loftus Road in November.
Hasselbaink, remembered as a disaster at QPR, lost 15 in 47 and Ramsey, who took over when they were fighting relegation from the Premier League, lost 17 in 32.
Holloway, in his second spell as Rangers boss, is fortunate that he can count on the goodwill of director of football Les Ferdinand keeping him in the job.