Antonio Conte has issued a statement on his future after the Italian Football Federation announced he would leave his role as Italy boss following Euro 2016.
The 46-year-old former Juventus coach has been strongly linked with Chelsea in recent weeks, and had this to say after his exit from the Italy post was confirmed on Tuesday morning.
“At the moment, my focus is on the Euros, where we’ll try with hard work and sacrifice to do our best at the tournament,” he said.
“Anyone who knows me, knows I will give my total commitment to this. I feel I should go back to being a club manager, to have the chance to train with players every day.
“I want to thank the president and everyone at the federation who has followed me in this wonderful adventure.”
Conte took control of the Azzurri in August 2014 and secured their qualification for the European Championship in France.
But FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio on Tuesday told Sky Sport Italia that Conte, who won three Serie A titles with Juve, was seeking a return to “daily work” with a football club after the summer finals.
Interim Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink will leave the club at the end of the season and has called on the Blues to act swiftly and with transparency as the club bids to appoint a permanent successor to Jose Mourinho.
And it seems the Blues have turned to former Juventus coach Conte, with another candidate, Jorge Sampaoli, claiming over the weekend he has missed out on the job to the Italian.
In quotes carried by La Gazzetta dello Sport, FIGC chief Tavecchio said: “Antonio Conte has told me that at the end of the European Championship his experience with us will come to an end.
“He can hear the call of the training ground, the daily work of training, and that is understandable.”
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 2014-15 Barclays Premier League champions’ fortunes following a dismal season.
Conte is understood to have been taking English lessons in the last few months with a view to facilitating his first ever foray into overseas management.
After retiring as a player in 2004 he took coaching roles with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena.
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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 came as no surprise.
The 2006 World Cup winners must tackle Belgium, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden at Euro 2016 and Tavecchio has said Conte’s successor “will be discussed in due course”.
If he takes the Chelsea job – replacing interim boss Guus Hiddink – he will bring assistants Massimo Carrera, Angelo Alessio, Paolo Bertelli, Mauro Sandreani and his brother Gianluca to west London.