Euro 2016: Antonio Conte explains why he left Italy job to take up Chelsea offer
Antonio Conte’s reign as Italy manager came to an end after the Azzurri exited UEFA Euro 2016 in a penalty shootout at the hands of Germany. After the match ended 1-1 after extra time, Germany beat Italy 6-5 in a penalty shootout to advance to the semi-finals.
Conte will now shift his focus to his next managerial job – taking over as the manager of Chelsea. After a very successful spell with Juventus which saw him win three consecutive Serie A titles, he returns to club management with a new project awaiting his arrival in the Premier League.
Conte was praised for taking a relatively poor team on paper all the way to the quarter-finals. With wins over Belgium and Spain, the Azzurri surprised many as Conte’s tactical system worked wonders. But he has no regrets over leaving the Italy job to take up the reins at Chelsea.
Chelsea will be the 46-year-old manager’s first time managing a team that is not Italian. The appointment of Conte was announced in April by the club but he reveals he received an offer months earlier.
“The decision to leave the national team after two years was taken early and I don’t deny there were moments when I’d have liked to have the opportunity to continue,” Conte said.
“But, because of certain developments, I wasn't able to go back on that.”
“In November I thought I was continuing with the national side,” he explained. “Then I told the president of the Italian football federation of the great opportunity to join Chelsea Football Club.”
Former boss Jose Mourinho was sacked in December following a poor half-season with the defending Premier League champions. Dutch boss Guus Hiddink was appointed as interim boss and he steadied the ship when the Blues flirted with the relegation zone and eventually finished 10th. Without European football, Conte has his work cut out to ensure Chelsea return to the top four and qualify for the Champions League again.
“I wanted to return to the cut and thrust of club football,” he added. Now, I have the opportunity to start this exciting adventure.”
Conte rules out return to managing Italian national team
Conte was also asked if he would ever fancy a return to the Italian national team. He leaves with the respect of the fans and players but he believes his future lies in club football.
“I think it's impossible,” Conte said on a return to the Azzurri. “My future lies in working at club level, my future’s with Chelsea.”
“Now I'll take seven days off to charge my batteries and shift a bit of this disappointment before taking over at Chelsea. I know it will be a difficult challenge but it's one I will cherish.”