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Chelsea’s Antonio Conte: ‘This is for my players, the title is a dream come true’

The Guardian logo The Guardian 13-05-2017 Dominic Fifield at The Hawthorns
Antonio Conte is mobbed by David Luiz and Pedro during Chelsea’s celebrations, following their 1-0 win at West Brom. © The Guardian Antonio Conte is mobbed by David Luiz and Pedro during Chelsea’s celebrations, following their 1-0 win at West Brom.

Antonio Conte described Chelsea’s title success as “a dream come true” and dedicated it to his players after a narrow victory over West Bromwich Albion secured the second Premier League in three seasons, with the Italian immediately targeting victory in the FA Cup final later this month to complete the double.

Michy Batshuayi, flung on 15 minutes from time with the game goalless, scored the goal which claimed the trophy with Conte at the heart of the visitors’ joyous celebrations out on the pitch, in front of their 2,773 travelling supporters, after the final whistle. He was duly soaked in a vat of iced water wielded by Asmir Begovic and Carlo Cudicini upon his return to the dressing-room before being sprayed with champagne by Diego Costa. He ended the night with a fat lip, inflicted during the celebrations.

The Italian’s success this season means he has claimed the domestic title in each of his last four campaigns in club football, and has won 111 of his 150 league games with Juventus and Chelsea. “They waited for me after the celebrations with the fans, and put Champagne and beer on me,” said Conte. “I had to change my clothes because my suit is a disaster now. I’m wearing the tracksuit, but I think I’m living a moment very important. When you put a lot of enthusiasm and passion and hours into your work, a lot of time not sleeping for your work, it’s right to celebrate and enjoy a moment like this. Enjoy it with the fans, the staff, with the club. It’s great. This is a dream come true. For sure, it’s a dream.

“This is for my players. It is a great achievement because this is the hardest championship to win in the world, and I have to say thanks to the players for their commitment, their attitude and their passion, and their will to do something great this season. They fought for this, so this win is for the players. Every game I feel like I have played with them. I show my passion and my will, my desire to stay with my players in every moment of the game. This is me, this is how I am. In the present, in the past, I stay with my players in positive and negative situations. So we won this title together.

“It has not always been the easiest of years, with my family back in Italy, but it has been a great season. For me, and also for my players given last season was a bad season for the club, the players and the fans. Only one year later, to celebrate this win in a league where there are, for me, big, big teams with great players, great managers … it’s great, fantastic. So it’s important to celebrate now. We have also another target to try to reach – we worked very hard to reach the final of the FA Cup, and then it’s important to prepare in the right way for next season And now we can win the FA Cup.”

The head coach suggested his decision to switch to a back three after a heavy loss at the Emirates stadium in September “changed our season”. “He’s a fantastic manager,” said Eden Hazard. “He worked us a lot in training, and that was the key this season. So credit to him. When we lost to Liverpool and Arsenal and then went on an unbelievable run, winning [13] games in a row … that’s when we realised we could win the title.”

Batshuayi, a £33.2m signing from Marseille who has failed to start a league game since moving to England, was an unlikely hero at the last given his cameos have been restricted to 127 minutes of top-flight football to date this term. Yet the forward converted César Azpilicueta’s cross seven minutes from time, his third shot ever in the Premier League, to secure the trophy. “That’s the beauty of football,” said Cesc Fàbregas. “A player who didn’t play a lot scores the winning goal for the championship.” The Belgium forward described it as “the best moment of my footballing life”.

“You have to cherish these moments,” said the captain, Gary Cahill, who will lift the trophy with John Terry after the visit of Sunderland on the season’s final day. “You work hard all season to be where we are. There is no better feeling than this. People wrote us off as a team and individually but, consistently, we have been the best in the league. We are champions. It’s an amazing achievement from everybody. A special moment. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on the trophy.” Terry, who has not started a league game since mid-September but has now claimed the 15th major trophy of his glittering career with the club, admitted it had “been a delight to sit and watch”.

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