Chelsea have finally confirmed Antonio Conte as their new manager after months of speculation that the Italy coach was a frontrunner for the job. There was also reported interest in Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid and Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus.
The Italian coach, who is due to step down after this summer’s European Championships, has signed a three-year deal to replace Jose Mourinho as permanent manager, following an interim role for Guus Hiddink.
Speaking on his appointment Conte said:
“I am very excited about the prospect of working at Chelsea football club. 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.
I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the club and the day-to-day challenge of competing in the Premier League.
Chelsea and English football are watched wherever you go, the fans are passionate and my ambition is to have more success to follow the victories I enjoyed in Italy.
I am happy we have made the announcement now so everything is clear and we can end the speculation. I will continue to focus on my job with the Italian national team and will reserve speaking about Chelsea again until after the Euros.”
The 46 year-old Italian coach is currently preparing his team for Euro 2016, where his side will face the Republic of Ireland, Sweden and Belgium in the group stages.
Antonio Conte has an illustrious managerial history thus far:
He won the Serie A title with his previous club Juventus three times in a row, before taking over the national side. Conte is said to have grown disillusioned with the national job, and had been wanting a return to club football for some time.
Conte, a former Juventus and Italy player, managed Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena before taking over at the Turin club in 2011. He had success in Serie A, but failed to get past the quarter-final stage in the Champions League. He left Juventus and agreed to replace Cesare Prandelli as Italy coach in 2014.
His team qualified for Euro 2016 without losing a game – seven wins and three draws – and are among the favourites to win the tournament in the summer.
As a player Conte was one of the more influential Juventus players at a time when Serie A was one of the best leagues in the world. He spent 13 successful years in Turin, playing alongside quality players such as Zinedine Zidane, Alessandro del Piero, Didier Deschamps and Gianluca Vialli.
He won 5 Serie A titles as a player with Juventus. He also won 1 Coppa Italia, 1 Champions League and 1 Uefa Cup. However, there was also heartache in the Champions League with final defeats to Borussia Dortmund in 1997, Real Madrid in 1998 and Milan in 2003.
He had success at International level, being part of the Italian teams that reached the final of World Cup USA 1994 and France Euro 2000- getting to the final of both competitions but, unfortunately for Conte, losing both.
He retired as a player in 2004.
Conte has often been compared to Jose Mourinho due to his obsession with tactics, his ability to bond with his squads, and his winning mentality.
Chelsea will be appointing a man who was a great player, has proven he can be a great manager, but will also bring controversy with him.
He was once banned for ten months for failing to report match fixing. Conte was embroiled in the 2011-12 Italian football scandal when a number of former players were accused of fixing games during their careers. Conte, who made 296 appearances for Juventus over 13 years, was dropped in hot water by former player Filippo Carobbio.
He claimed that during a match between Siena and Novara in 2010-11, Siena owner Massimo Mezzaroma sent an order demanding they lose in order to win a bet.
Siena, then managed by Conte, won the match 5-0, but Conte was accused of failing to report the alleged incident. Conte was also accused of knowing about match-fixing in another game. He denied any wrongdoing.
His ban was cut from ten months to four after being cleared in relation to one of the two matches.
However, Conte is regarded as a great coach and comes highly recommended by the talismanic Andrea Pirlo, who was coached by Conte at Juventus and the national side.
In his excellent autobiography, I Think Therefore I Play, Pirlo said:
‘When Conte speaks, his words assault you. They crash through the doors of your mind, often quite violently and settle deep within you. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve found myself saying, ‘Hell, Conte said something really spot-on again today.’
With that ringing endorsement, Chelsea fans can look forward to the new chapter at the club.
After the Mourinho period, Chelsea fans hoping for a quiet period at the club with the focus just on the pitch mightbe nervous by Conte’s recent comments that, “there is never any peace around me”.
Controversy seems to follow him after the match fixing scandal and death threats after an injury to Claudio Marchisio, somehow making Mouriniho look like the lee controversial of the two.
According to Pirlo, if Chelsea’s players don’t fall into line, he has a spine-chilling death stare. However, Conte’s biggest challenge will be getting Eden Hazard to stay at the club and try to get back the form that saw him will the player of the season award last year. Hazard has looked anything but this season.
John Terry too is on his way out, but Chelsea have revealed the new manager will have the final say on that decision.
Chelsea also need to be wary of Conte taking the job after Euro 2016, as Manchester United found out after appointing Louis Van Gaal before World Cup 2014. Van Gaal and Holland went all the way to the semi-finals, delaying his arrival in Manchester and his preparations for the new season. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded of how that turned out.
Chelsea face a huge challenge to rebuild after a disastrous season as defending champions, and they will want Conte to be fully focused on Chelsea and the job in hand as soon as possible.
Conte will come into the Premier League for the first time, as will Pep Guardiola with Manchester City. With Jurgen Klopp getting settled in at Liverpool and the possible arrival of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, the 2016/17 season is going to be an interesting one on and off the field.