Conte: Tottenham 'might sack me before end of season' after Champions League exit

Spurs facing 15th straight season without a trophy after a last-16 elimination by AC Milan

Antonio Conte has called for patience after Tottenham were eliminated from the Champions League Round of 16 by AC Milan. Getty
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Tottenham manager Antonio Conte said he could be sacked before the end of the season after the club's faltering campaign took another disappointing turn with an uninspired exit from the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Aiming to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the last-16 first leg against AC Milan, Spurs were held to a goalless draw at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and rarely threatened to pull themselves back into the tie, producing just two shots on target. The hosts' attempts to progress were dealt a further setback with 12 minutes remaining when defender Cristian Romero was sent off for a second yellow card.

Conte, who has been recovering from gallbladder surgery, returned to the touchline for the first time since the first leg in Milan last month, and after an FA Cup defeat away to Sheffield United and a Premier League loss at Wolves ahead of Wednesday night's game, the Italian admitted his time at the club could come to an end sooner rather than later.

“I’m under contract at Tottenham, then we will decide at the end of the season with the club,” Conte said.

“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.”

Following elimination from the FA Cup and Champions League in the same week, Tottenham now look set for a 15th successive season without silverware. Spurs are still fourth in the Premier League and hold hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League, although fifth-placed Liverpool's return to form makes the Reds favourites for a coveted top-four place. Should Liverpool and Newcastle, in sixth, win their games in hand Tottenham will slip out of the top four.

Tottenham v AC Milan player ratings

It marks a stark contrast from Conte's first seven months in charge when, after being appointed in November 2021, he led Spurs from eighth in the Premier League table to a top-four finish.

“I’m really sorry for the fans but we cannot get the win,” Conte said. “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.

“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.”

While issues persist at Tottenham, progress to the quarter-finals provides a boost to Milan, who have seen their Serie A title defence collapse. Milan sit fifth in the league table, 18 points behind runaway leaders Napoli.

"I like to think there’s nothing impossible in sport," Milan manager Stefano Pioli said. "Clearly, only the best in Europe remain, and each round gets more difficult, but I am sure that all the European experiences, especially the negative ones – help us step up a level.

"Now we must go into the quarter-final with confidence and belief."

Updated: March 09, 2023, 5:38 AM