Italy coach Conte to step down, opening up Chelsea move


Italy coach Antonio Conte, who has been linked to Chelsea, will give up his post after Euro 2016, the Italian Football Federation said Tuesday.

The 46-year-old former Juventus coach took over the national team in August 2014 and secured their qualification for the European Championship.

Federation president Carlo Tavecchio told Italian media: “Antonio Conte has told me that at the end of the European championship, his job will end. He feels the need for the pitch, the everyday training, and this is something you can understand.”

“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.”

The news fueled speculation that Conte, who won three Serie A titles with Juventus, will be appointed manager of English Premier League side Chelsea following the tournament in France from June 10 to July 10.

British and Italian media reports say that struggling Premier League champions Chelsea already have an agreement with Conte.

Chelsea are having the worst season of Roman Abramovich’s 13-year ownership, sacking Jose Mourinho in December with interim boss Guus Hiddink taking the team from just above the relegation zone to 10th place.

But Conte insisted his sole focus was on the European championship, where Italy will bid for a second title after 1968.

“For now all our focus should be turned towards the Euro, where we will seek through work and sacrifice to make the most of our potential,” Conte said in a statement released by the federation. “Those who know me, know that my commitment will be total.”

Conte took over a demoralised Azzurri side following their humiliating first round exit from the World Cup in Brazil. He confidently succeeded in his first task of qualifying for the European Championships.

Italy advanced to the finals with ease by dominating their group which included Bulgaria, Norway, Croatia, Azerbaidjan and Malta, with seven wins and three draws.

Conte’s Italy defence, with a Juventus core of Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, proved solid, but the coach has come under fire for his lacklustre forward line that managed just 16 goals in 10 qualifying games. Three months before the tournament gets underway, the team remains a work in progress.

In France, the Italians have been drawn in Group E along with Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

Italy were beaten by world number one ranked team Belgium in a friendly last November, demonstrating the gap between Conte’s side and the top European teams.

Conte, a former midfielder with Juventus, has also clashed with Italian football chiefs. He had hoped to organise a training camp in February and wanted the Italian Cup final brought forward to allow international players involved to take holidays.

Both requests were turned down to Conte’s fury.

Tavecchio said that Conte’s successor would be “discussed in due course”.

“There is still a question hanging over the training schedule ahead of the European Championship,” said Tavecchio.

“We expected more from the league and right now we are working hard to find a solution which will allow the Azzurri to have the best preparation possible for the European competition.

“We will complete all of the necessary steps because the national team is our main interest.”

Former Italy coaches Roberto Donadoni and Cesare Prandelli have both been named as possible replacements for Conte along with Claudio Ranieri, manager of surprise Premier League leaders Leicester.

Please follow and like us: