ROME: Antonio Conte and the Italian federation have confirmed that he will step down as Azzurri boss after the Euro 2016 finals – which leaves him clear to take over from Guus Hiddink at Chelsea next season.
The 46-year-old former Juventus coach took control of the Azzurri in August 2014 and, without a fanfare, secured their qualification for the European Championship in France which starts in June.
But FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio has said Conte informed him of a desire to return to club management after the summer finals.
Speaking ahead of an FIGC congress in Rome, Tavecchio said: “Antonio Conte has told me that at the end of the European Championship his experience with us will come to an end.
“Conte feels the lure of the training ground, the daily work of training, and that is understandable.”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.”
Conte, a former midfielder with Juve who returned to the Bianconeri as manager in 2011, has reportedly held talks with Chelsea over replacing Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.
An announcement could be made this week with both parties free to complete a deal to charge Conte with restoring the outgoing Premier champions’ fortunes after a dismal season.
Conte has been taking English lessons in the last few months with a view to facilitating his first ever foray into overseas management.
If he takes the Chelsea job he would want to bring assistants Massimo Carrera, Angelo Alessio, Paolo Bertelli, Mauro Sandreani and his brother Gianluca to west London.
After retiring as a player in 2004 Conte took coaching roles with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. His success in guiding the Tuscans to promotion from Serie B captured Juve’s attention and he replaced Luigi Delneri, who had only been able to secure a seventh-placed finish in the top flight.
Juve would go unbeaten throughout Conte’s first season in charge and they retained the Scudetto despite losing their boss for four months as he served an FIGC ban for failing to report his knowledge of attempted match-fixing that allegedly occurred during his time with Siena.
The Bianconeri, who by 2014 boasted Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo in a fearsome line-up, made it three titles in a row before Conte took up the reins of the national team.
An unspectacular qualifying campaign raised questions about his long-term credentials and commitment to the Azzurri, and Tuesday’s announcement therefore came as no real surprise.
The 2006 World Cup winners must tackle Belgium, Ireland and Sweden at the Euros, while Conte must this weekend select a squad for upcoming friendly meetings with Spain and Germany.
Tavecchio has said Conte’s successor “will be discussed in due course”.
Former England manager Fabio Capello, Bologna boss Roberto Donadoni and Leicester’s title-chasing tactician Claudio Ranieri have been mentioned as possible replacements in the Italian press.