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Italy boss's departure fuels Chelsea speculation

Soccer

Antonio Conte will step down as Italy head coach after Euro 2016, increasing British media speculation that he will join Premier League club Chelsea next season.

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The 46-year-old former Juventus coach is contracted to Italy until the end of the June 10-July 10 European Championship in France.

“At the moment our maximum concentration only goes to Euro 2016 during which we will try with work and sacrifice to make the best of our potential,” Conte said overnight, Australian time.

“After that I feel that I must go back to being a coach in a club to have the opportunity of coaching every day.”

Italian Football Federation president Carlo Tavecchio confirmed that Conte would not renew his contract with the national team after two years in charge.

“Antonio Conte told me that at the end of Euro 2016 his experience will be over,” Tavecchio said.

“We will make evaluations with serenity, for now it’s time to acknowledge this and have to deal with a person who has recovered the image of the Italian national team, his commitment and sacrifice.”

Conte won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus before taking charge of Italy in 2014 following a disappointing group-stage exit at the World Cup under Cesare Prandelli.

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink, who took over after Jose Mourinho was fired in December after the club made their worst start to a top-flight season since 1978, will step down at the end of the campaign.

Chelsea have climbed to 10th in the Premier League table on the back of a 12-game unbeaten run since Hiddink took charge but were knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage by Paris St Germain.

They were also dumped out of the FA Cup after losing 2-0 to Everton on Saturday in the quarter-finals.

Hiddink said after the match that Chelsea, last season’s English champions, were in a “transitional period”.

-Reuters

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