Outgoing Italian national manager Antonio Conte has cooled fervent speculation he is set to take over at Chelsea this summer. The former Juventus stalwart, who succeeded Cesare Prandelli as Azzurri boss following their disappointing 2014 World Cup campaign, is set to step down after the European Championship finals in France as he wants to return to the day-to-day challenges of club football.
An announcement, made by Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio last week, lent further credence to widespread rumours that he is to be named Jose Mourinho's permanent successor at Stamford Bridge when the second interim reign of Guus Hiddink draws to a close. Previous reports had even suggested that confirmation of Conte's appointment could come as early as March, although the man himself remains coy on his next move – even insisting he could also opt to return to Serie A.
"Chelsea? It's not a taboo for me, but I could talk about Italian teams too," the 46-year-old said at a press conference held prior to Italy's friendly matches against Spain and Germany, as relayed by Football Italia. "At the moment my thoughts and my pain are reserved for a choice [leaving the national team] that is not superficial and without heartache.
"I've taken the choice, and now we'll see what the future holds, if there's something beautiful in Italy or abroad. These choices are never taken lightly. What's certain is that I won't be Italy coach for the next two years, my intention is to return to a club."
Conte has a fine pedigree in club management, having led Juventus to three consecutive Serie A titles between 2012-14. He has yet to take charge of a club outside of his homeland, but admitted that the Premier League did hold considerable appeal.
"The Premier League? I think the English national team is very strong too, just look at the qualifying campaign they had," he added. "English football is definitely very attractive at the moment for players and coaches, not least because it's a very interesting league from many points of view."