Antonio Conte has admitted he could be dismissed from his post before the end of the season after his Tottenham side were eliminated from the Champions League following a tepid performance against Milan that leaves them facing a 15th successive season without silverware.
Cristian Romero was sent off in the second half as Spurs laboured against a Milan side who arrived in north London with a slim advantage from the first leg but never looked likely to surrender it. Tottenham managed only two shots on target all night, with Harry Kane coming closest to finding the breakthrough in injury time when his header was saved by Mike Maignan.
Conte was back in the dugout for the first time since the 1-0 defeat in Italy last month as he continued his recovery from surgery to remove his gallbladder. But after a week where Tottenham lost to Wolves and were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Sheffield United, Conte admitted that there are no guarantees he will remain at the club next season.
“I’m under contract at Tottenham, then we will decide at the end of the season with the club,” he told Italian broadcasters Prime.
“My contract expires in June, we will see – they might sack me even before the end of the season. Perhaps the expectations were higher and they may be disappointed? What matters for a coach is trying to work and raise the bar. This year we are struggling to raise the bar.”
Conte has now taken charge of six Champions League campaigns as a manager but only reached the quarter-finals on one occasion – with Juventus in 2013. But having failed to reach an agreement over an extension after he held preliminary discussions with Daniel Levy at the end of last year, the 53-year-old was disappointed with Tottenham’s progress since he took over in November 2021.
“I’m really sorry for the fans but we cannot invent the win,” said Conte. “It’s important to know this or hope for a miracle that one day a trophy comes to us … we have to build and have patience. I understand the fans don’t have patience because for a long time Tottenham have not been winning, but what I can promise is that we continue to work and try to improve.
He added: “In this moment we don’t have a solid foundation to be competitive to fight to win, in my opinion. We tried to work and understand the right players to create a foundation, and in the market to find a resolution to improve, but at the moment the club knows my thoughts.
“I have a great relationship with my chairman but that doesn’t mean I don’t tell them what my vision is. We will see. We have to finish the season. We have a contract until June. I’m happy to work in Tottenham but at the end I will make a decision. The club knows my vision and my thoughts about the situation.”
Richarlison was not brought on until the 70th minute, and the Brazilian striker hit out at Conte after the game. “I’m honest, this season has been shit. I want to play”, he told TNT Sports. “I didn’t understand [Conte’s choices]. I was in a positive moment, and Conte put me on the bench again. Yesterday he tested me in the starting XI [in training] and then – bench, again.”
The Milan manager, Stefano Pioli, was delighted with his side’s performance after they reached the last eight for the first time since beating Arsenal at this stage in 2012. “I think we outplayed our opponents in both games and deserved to go through,” he said. “We are in the quarter-finals and anything is possible in football.”