Antonio Conte, the current manager of the Italian national side, has refused to be drawn into discussions over his future after strong links to the Chelsea job.
The 46-year-old confirmed last week that he will leave the Italian national set-up in the summer after the end of the 2016 European Championships. That has led to many suspecting a deal is already in place for him to become Chelsea’s next permanent manager, with most bookmakers having him odds-on favourite for the position.
Chelsea are looking for a permanent manager after the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, made the decision to sack Jose Mourinho for the second time last December. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ led Chelsea to their worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1960s just months after leading them to their third Premier League win under his management.
Guus Hiddink was brought in as an interim replacement for the Portuguese boss, much as he was in 2009 when he replaced the sacked Luis Felipe Scolari. He won the FA Cup with Chelsea that year, though they were knocked out of that trophy this season after a 2-0 loss to Everton.
With Hiddink leaving Chelsea at the end of the season the speculation surrounding their next boss has reached fever pitch, though Conte will not confirm whether or not he’ll return to club management in the summer. He said, “At this moment, nothing interests me. I’m the coach of the national team and it’s an experience which has taught me so much”.
Conte became Italy manager in August of 2014 and his contract is due to expire after the 2016 Euros, a tournament that will be held in France this summer. His decision to not renew his contract with the Italian national side came after he was asked to clarify his situation by the president of the Italian Football Federation, Carlo Tavecchio.
Conte said, “I have thought about it and weighed up my decision and when I had no more doubts, I informed the president – the one who chose me and wanted me here. I feel a great desire to work. I’m excited about the competition in June, I am raring to go”.
The former Juventus manager also made clear his pride at having managed the national side of his country of birth, saying, “It’s been a fantastic, extraordinary experience and I’ve always envied coaches who have taken part at a World Cup or a European Championship…These are experiences that happen once in a lifetime and I feel a great responsibility”.