Monday 22 January 2018

Italy boss Antonio Conte paves way to join Chelsea when he steps down in summer

Antonio Conte will be free to return to club management when he leaves Italy following Euro 2016
Antonio Conte will be free to return to club management when he leaves Italy following Euro 2016

Antonio Conte has paved the way to take the Chelsea post he has been heavily linked with after it was confirmed the Italy manager would be stepping down following Euro 2016.

The ex-Juventus coach has been with the Azzurri since August 2014 but is set for a return to club management just two years on once the tournament concludes in France this summer.

On Tuesday Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio revealed the reasons behind the decision of Conte, who has long been the favourite to assume the reins at Stamford Bridge on a permanent basis.

Speaking ahead of an FIGC congress in Rome, Tavecchio told "Antonio Conte has told me that at the end of the European Championship his experience with us will come to an end.

"Conte feels the lure of the training ground, the daily work of training, and that is understandable.

"Now is the time for us to take stock of the decision of a person who has worked with commitment and sacrifice in his mission to lead our national team's recovery.

"I will always thank him for that."

Conte, a former midfielder with Juve who returned to the Bianconeri as manager in 2011, has reportedly held talks with Chelsea over replacing Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

An announcement could be made this week with both parties free to complete a deal to charge Conte with restoring the 2014-15 Barclays Premier League champions' fortunes following a dismal season.

Conte is understood to have been taking English lessons in the last few months with a view to facilitating his first ever foray into overseas management.

If he takes the Chelsea job - replacing interim boss Guus Hiddink - he will bring assistants Massimo Carrera, Angelo Alessio, Paolo Bertelli, Mauro Sandreani and his brother Gianluca to west London.

While Chelsea appear to have found the man to lead them in the future, Italy will not be able to turn to Roberto Mancini after he ruled himself out of the running to succeed Conte.

The former Manchester City boss is currently in charge of Inter Milan and while admitting the chance to one day coach his national team is alluring, he will not walk away from his current position with another year remaining on his contract.

"My job is rebuild a good squad in Inter," he told BBC Sport. "Maybe in the future when I finish the contract with Inter, if I will have this option, it could be a good option because to be an international manager is important.

"In this moment it is impossible."

Tavecchio has said Conte's successor "will be discussed in due course" and ex- England manager Fabio Capello, Bologna boss Roberto Donadoni and Leicester's title-chasing tactician Claudio Ranieri have been mentioned as possible replacements in the Italian press.

Conte, who took coaching roles with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena before joining Juve, guided the Bianconeri to an unbeaten campaign during his first season in charge and they retained the Scudetto despite losing their boss for four months as he served an FIGC ban for failing to report his knowledge of attempted match-fixing that allegedly occurred during his time with Siena.

The Bianconeri, who by 2014 boasted Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo in a fearsome line-up, made it three titles in a row before Conte took up the reins of the national team.

An unspectacular qualifying campaign raised questions about his long-term credentials and commitment to the Azzurri, and Tuesday's announcement therefore came as no real surprise.

The 2006 World Cup winners must tackle Belgium, Ireland and Sweden at the Euros, while Conte will this weekend select a squad for upcoming friendly meetings with Spain and Germany.

Press Association

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