All roads lead to Stamford Bridge for Antonio Conte.
On Tuesday the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) confirmed that Conte will depart as Italy’s boss following this summer’s 2016 European Championships.
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Conte, 46, has been heavily linked with the soon to be vacant managers job at Chelsea with many reports claiming the former Juventus boss has already agreed a three-year deal with the Blues worth over $9 million per season.
After leading Juve to three-straight Serie A titles from 2011-14, Conte took charge of the Italian national team in 2014 and has led them to EURO 2016 in France this summer.
However, in a statement via FIGC, Conte revealed he wants to return to club management.
“At the moment, my focus is on the Euros, where we’ll try with hard work and sacrifice to do our best at the tournament,” Conte said. “Anyone who knows me, knows I will give my total commitment to this. I feel I should go back to being a club manager, to have the chance to train with players every day. I want to thank the president and everyone at the federation who has followed me in this wonderful adventure.”
Italian FA president Carlo Tavecchio said Conte’s desire to go back to club management was “understandable. ”
Various reports claim Conte could be appointed as Chelsea’s new manager as early as next week, and he would take over in July when his current contract with the FIGC expires.
Current interim boss Guus Hiddink has guided Chelsea away from the relegation zone and into midtable since taking over in December, but recently he admitted that the Blues are in a transitional period and the 69-year-old will only be in charge until the end of the season.
After getting knocked out of both cup competitions in the past week — first losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 and then to Everton in the FA Cup quarterfinals — the news about Conte stepping back into club management will be a welcome boost for Chelsea’s fans.
Following the firing of Jose Mourinho in December, the reigning Premier League champions have had little to shout about with Hiddink’s side currently 11 points off the top four with eight games to go and qualification for Europe next year looking slim to none.
Conte’s imminent arrival will give Chelsea plenty of time to rebuild their squad over the summer as they aim to get back among the PL and Europe’s elite next season. It’s likely Conte is already deciding which players he wants to arrive — Paul Pogba has been mentioned — in the summer and which will depart, as the former Juventus defensive midfielder is set for a new challenge in England. He prefers a three-man central defense and is known for his strong defensive philosophy, and the man who won five Serie A titles with the Old Lady during his playing days will be given the chance to build something at Chelsea.
If and when he arrives, Conte should be given something no Chelsea manager (even Mourinho) has been given in recent years: time.
Patience is a virtue, Mr. Abramovich.