Chelsea Football club have confirmed that the current Italy boss, Antonio Conte, will become their new manager in the summer.
The former Juventus manager has agreed a three-year contract with the West London club and will take up his post after Italy’s involvement in the 2016 European Championship in France this summer. He said, “I am proud to be the coach of the national team of my country and only a role as attractive as manager of Chelsea could follow that”.
The Blues have been searching for a new permanent manager after the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, decided to sack Jose Mourinho last December. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ won the title with the club during his second spell in charge but led the defending Premier League champions to their worst start to a league campaign since the 1960s.
Abramovich asked Guus Hiddink to replace the Portuguese boss on an interim basis, much as he did after sacking Luis Felipe Scolari back in 2009. Then the Dutchman won the FA Cup with the Blues but there has been no such success this time around. Hiddink will remain in charge of the club until the end of the season.
Conte will become the fifth Italian to manage the London club and is arguably the most successful after Carlo Ancelotti. He won the Serie A title every year of his three years at the Italian club. Gianluca Vialli won the League Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the FA Cup during his spell in charge of Chelsea, whilst Ancelotti won a Premier League and FA Cup double. Roberto Di Matteo, meanwhile, won Abramovich his ultimate prize when he oversaw the Blues’ 2012 Champion’s League win. Claudio Ranieri is the only Italian manager the club have had so far who did not win anything with them, though he is on course to win the Premier League with Leicester City this season.
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said, “We are very pleased to have recruited one of the most highly regarded managers in world football. We are equally pleased to do so before the end of the current season. This aids our future planning”.
Conte will be tasked with rebuilding a team that won the Premier League at a canter last season before completely imploding at the start of this campaign. Chelsea will not boast Champion’s League football next season and, sitting in 10th with just seven games still to play, are unlikely to qualify for Europa League football either.
The current Italy boss was also a talented midfielder, playing for his country and making over 400 appearances for Juventus, winning the Champions League and five Serie A titles as a player. He was part of the Italy team that lost to France in the 2000 European Championships final.
His previous managerial career includes spells at Arezzo, Bari, Atlanta and Siena. Having starred for Juventus as a player he returned to the club as manager in 2011 and won the title at the first time of asking, with his side going the entire season without losing a game.
His career has not been without controversy, however. The Italian was banned for ten months after failing to report attempted match-fixing when he was the coach of Siena. He pleaded innocence but was found guilty regardless, though his suspension was later reduced from ten months to a four-month touchline ban.
The 46-year-old manager has been linked with the Chelsea job for some time, admitting that he misses the day-to-day work of club management. The Italian national team President, Carlo Tavecchio, thanked Conte for his ‘commitment and sacrifice’ during his Azzurri tenure but also admitted that he ‘misses the smell of the grass’.