LONDON - Antonio Conte has fired a warning ahead of talks over a new contract by telling Chelsea to pay him what he’s worth.
The 47-year-old will see his team crowned Premier League champions if they win at West Bromwich Albion on Friday night.
But the build-up has been overshadowed by speculation linking Conte with the vacant Inter Milan manager’s job.
Conte yesterday insisted he intends to stay in west London.
But Inter, who sacked Stefano Pioli this week, would be willing to almost double Conte’s current £6.5million salary — and hand him a hefty transfer kitty.
Conte signed a three-year deal with Chelsea last summer and has proved excellent value.
However, he is the fifth best-paid manager in the Premier League behind Pep Guardiola (£15m), Jose Mourinho (£13.8m), Arsene Wenger (£8.3m) and Jurgen Klopp (£7m).
Consequently, the Italian has challenged Chelsea to show him how much they value his work when talks get under way.
He is also demanding greater control over transfers in and out, something owner Roman Abramovich is unwilling to agree to.
"If, in the future, we decide to extend the contract, we’ll decide this," said Conte.
"The money is important only at this level to give the real value of a player or coach. If you show you deserve it . . . when you reach a level, the money, yes, could be important but it’s not everything.
"The money explains to you your value (but) is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to win. For me and the players to write history.
"I have a contract with Chelsea for two more years. But it’s logical that the will is to continue to improve your work for many years.
"This is my will. But now the most important thing is to reach our target. To have this great opportunity we worked very hard for the whole season."
Inter, owned by the Chinese retail giants Suning Commerce Group, are in the process of recruiting a new technical staff which features several of Conte’s trusted former colleagues.
Among them is Walter Sabatini, the former sporting director of Roma, who has been confirmed as Inter’s technical co-ordinator. Conte was keen for Sabatini to be involved in his backroom team at Chelsea but did not get his wish last summer.
Inter are also trying to bring back former player and technical director Gabriele Oriali. He worked closely with Conte when he was in charge of Italy.
They also want Dario Baccin, a respected scout and former team-mate of Conte, and Cristian Stellini, a youth-team coach at Genoa, who worked with Conte at Siena and Juventus.
As part of talks to lure these coaches, Inter have made a point of telling them that they are serious about taking Conte to the San Siro.
They are also promising funds to build a team capable of taking Inter back to the top.
Yet Abramovich is likely to offer Conte improved terms which will catapult him into the top tier of world coaches when the title is won. Abramovich is a generous employer and will satisfy his financial requirements.
Conte and his wife Elisabetta Muscarello have started the process of enrolling daughter Vittoria into an English school — a strong indication of his intention to stay.
Currently, his family live in Italy and he makes regular trips back to his homeland.
Despite the Suning takeover there remain doubts about exactly how much money the Chinese investors are willing to sink into Inter.
Conte is excited by the challenge of another attack on the Champions League, and Chelsea are preparing for a busy summer of activity in the transfer market.
Romelu Lukaku of Everton, Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk and Tiemoue Bakayoko of Monaco are among the targets.
Conte has also been keen to replace coach Steve Holland, who will leave to join England at the end of the season. As one of his trusted lieutenants, Oriali is among the candidates.
But Abramovich has always insisted upon a thread of continuity running through the club’s coaching staff.
Steve Clarke and Holland survived managerial changes and the Chelsea owner would prefer another club appointment.