As Chelsea made sure the champagne was appropriately iced before their final match of a glorious Premier League title-winning campaign, Antonio Conte uttered words for all fans to savour.
Conte is the 10th man to sit in the Stamford Bridge dugout since Roman Abramovich took control of the club in 2003 and Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink have both had a go twice.
But finally, after arguably the most impressive of the Blues’ five Premier League crowns, stability beckoned.
“At the moment, my situation is very clear. I have two more years’ contract with the club,” Conte said.
“Then, if the club give me the possibility to stay here and to extend my contract, for sure I am available to do this.”
Conte now has a new contract and still has two more years with the club.
Tuesday’s surprise announcement of a fresh deal for the former Italy and Juventus boss – improved terms over the same period of his previous agreement, expiring at the end of the 2018-19 season – jars slightly in this context. Surely this was the opportunity to extend that Conte craved two months ago?
The 47-year-old has previously shown himself to be restless. A desire to return to the challenges of club football gave Chelsea their opening as Conte decided two years and one major tournament was a long enough period in which to helm the Azzurri.
Days before he spoke of his desire to pen an extended contract, he told La Repubblica he would “definitely not do another year on my own here” without his wife and daughter.
Pointedly, as speculation over a mega-money switch to Inter swirled at that time, Conte added: “They will come over if I stay at Chelsea.”
The new contract should at least assuage lingering doubts over Conte’s immediate future, with his family now in tow and compatriots Paolo Vanoli and Davide Mazzotta appointed to the backroom staff.
New additions to the playing squad have not been so easy to secure.
“We [he and Chelsea] have the same idea about the future. The way we have to do things together, to improve the squad and the team,” Conte said in May.
The attempted recruitment of a new striker, with Conte having informed Diego Costa via SMS that his often dastardly take on centre-forward play is no longer required, does not align with this claim of a joined-up approach.
Alvaro Morata, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero and Andrea Belotti have been mentioned interchangeably and all at once as purported Chelsea targets, while Manchester United’s capture of Romelu Lukaku reportedly infuriated Conte.
Throw in the fact that Costa’s only serious suitor, Atletico Madrid, are banned from registering new players until January and you have a situation that is indisputably a mess as the clock ticks towards the new season.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 15, 2017
Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko have arrived at no little expense, but the trail has seemingly run cold with regards to Juventus wing-back Alex Sandro and Conte looked on as his old lieutenant Leonardo Bonucci stunningly arrived at AC Milan.
Against this backdrop, Conte’s new and non-extended contract leaves more questions than answers. Concerns are curbed rather than extinguished at a time when focus and clarity need to be quickly found.
Many of last season’s heroes need not look too far back into the past to remember how treacherous a title defence without everyone pulling in the same direction can be.
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