Antonio Conte’s recent absence from Tottenham due to recovery from gallbladder surgery did not change his mind about his future at the club amid reports of a contractual impasse.
Conte was back in the hot seat on Tuesday as Spurs held their pre-match press conference before Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Milan.
Spurs revealed Conte was set for a period of leave on February 1 after a sudden illness required the emergency removal of his gallbladder.
He returned to work just eight days later but was then signed off again on February 16, with Conte acknowledging he underestimated how long his body needed to recover.
The visit of Milan will be Conte’s first game back at the helm, assuming control again from Cristian Stellini, but it comes following strong rumours claiming he will not be staying beyond the end of the season when his contract ends.
Conte sounded committed upon his return but did not directly discuss his future and his comments hinted at there being no movement.
“This type of situation can happen and I discovered after the surgery that many of my friends had the same surgery,” he told reporters.
“This was emergency surgery, not planned, and that’s very different. Previously a lot of sad news happened and when [the doctors] told me that I had only [needed] surgery, for this reason I was happy, because you never know what could happen.
“This doesn’t change my mind. Now, I repeat that I have to stay with the players and breathe the atmosphere of the training ground.”
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) March 7, 2023
Results for Spurs have been mixed over the past five weeks or so since Conte initially took time off.
The lowest moment, however, came last week when Championship side Sheffield United knocked them out of the FA Cup.
Conte wanted to return after that embarrassment for Spurs but was blocked by doctors.
“I wanted to come back after the game against Sheffield United but the doctors stopped me,” he continued.
“They said, ‘you have to listen to us and wait two days more and come back to London on Sunday for the game against Milan’. But honestly, I wanted to come back early.”
Despite Spurs’ lack of on-pitch consistency and Conte’s own off-field frustrations, he appeared to be in high spirits as Tottenham look to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit.
He added: “[Monday] was positive. My feeling was really good. It’s important for me to work with my players and the staff and prepare for the games.
“From afar I tried to stay very close with my players using video. To be present is totally different and for this reason I have to say thanks to my whole staff. They did a really good job and the players to stay for three weeks without the manager wasn’t easy.
“Now I’m back and I’m really happy. We want to go to the next round and for tomorrow I hope to feel an amazing atmosphere in our stadium. Our fans give us a major boost and we’re playing against the team that won the league in Italy last season.”
Son Heung-min also recognised the significance of Conte’s return from the players’ perspectives, with the former Inter coach bringing with him his trademark boisterousness.
“It’s important,” he said. “I’m glad that the manager is sitting next to me.
“He brings good energy to the team. When the boss isn’t here it’s different. We could feel that energy and his passion on the touchline [in training on Monday]. We’ll feel more comfortable.”
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