LONDON, United Kingdom, May 16 – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte expects departing captain John Terry to play beyond the end of the season, despite the former England centre-back hinting he may retire.
Speaking after scoring in Chelsea’s 4-3 victory over Watford on Monday, their first outing since winning the Premier League, Terry said: “I still haven’t ruled out Sunday being my last game and retiring.”
Chelsea finish the season at home to Sunderland on Sunday, before tackling Arsenal in the FA Cup final, and while Conte has come to terms with Terry’s decision to leave, he believes he will not hang up his boots.
“No, absolutely not. No, no, John wants to continue to play,” said Conte, whose side prevailed courtesy of an 88th-minute strike by substitute Cesc Fabregas.
“I wish for him and his family the best. Chelsea will always be his home because John, first of all, is a great man and a great legend and player for Chelsea — and in future for the team he decides to play for.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to see him lift the (Premier League) cup and I think all the players want to see this. This is the right final for John.
“John took this decision to continue to play regularly and play every game and for this reason he preferred to leave Chelsea and to play every game I don’t know where. For sure, for us this is a big loss next season.”
Terry, making his 716th Chelsea appearance, put his side ahead in the 22nd minute at Stamford Bridge, but it was from the 36-year-old’s loose header that Etienne Capoue equalised two minutes later.
Goals from Cesar Azpilicueta and Michy Batshuayi restored and then extended Chelsea’s lead, only for Watford to reply through Daryl Janmaat and substitute Stefano Okaka.
But Fabregas came off the bench to sweep in Willian’s pass and keep Chelsea on course to become the first team to win 30 games in a 38-game season in England’s top division.
Conte made nine changes to the team that had secured the title by winning 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion on Friday, but suggested he would pick a strong side for the visit of relegated Sunderland.
– ‘A bit of cake’ –
“The FA Cup final, you don’t play that on Saturday. You start to play the final 10 days before,” Conte explained.
“For this reason, in my head I have a plan to try to arrive to play the final in the best condition, in the best situation for my players.
“At this moment I have 13 or 14 players and they deserve to play the FA Cup, and many players in good form.
“I have to take my time in these 12 days to make the decision. But, for sure, I have to pick the players who, for me, are in better form.”
Watford finished the game with 10 men after centre-back Sebastian Prodl received a pair of late yellow cards for untidy challenges on Batshuayi and Pedro.
Beaten manager Walter Mazzarri played down an on-pitch argument between Okaka and his captain Troy Deeney that occurred late in the game, but said he would speak to the pair about the matter.
“They’re friends, they’re always together. Nobody told me anything,” said the Italian, whose side remain 16th in the table.
“I want players with character who talk to teach other on the pitch. Tomorrow I will investigate, but I don’t think it was anything.”
Conte, meanwhile, feigned offence after being told that striker Diego Costa, who was an unused substitute, had visited the buffet in the media room at half-time.
“In this case I’m very angry with him,” Conte smiled.
“He must think to give me a bit of chocolate cake to share. I was suffering during the game. To eat a bit of cake or chocolate, that would be good.
“Next time I’ll tell him to think of me as well and share.”