Antonio Conte has been sacked by Chelsea after months of speculation over his future.
The 48-year-old Italian had a year remaining on his contract, but has left the Blues 55 days after lifting the 2018 FA Cup in his final match in charge – and having taken pre-season training earlier this week.
Conte, who is reportedly set to be replaced by former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, also led Chelsea to the 2016-17 Premier League title in his first season as boss.
Chelsea said in a statement on Friday: “Chelsea Football Club and Antonio Conte have parted company.
“During Antonio’s time at the club, we won our sixth league title and eighth FA Cup. In the title-winning season, the club set a then-record 30 wins in a 38-game Premier League season, as well as a club-record 13 consecutive league victories.
“We wish Antonio every success in his future career.”
Chelsea’s 64-word statement marks the end of a protracted process.
Uncertainty clouded Conte’s position all last season and on Thursday reports emerged from Italy that his Chelsea reign was over.
Chelsea playmaker Cesc Fabregas and former captain John Terry both paid tribute to Conte, prior to the club’s official announcement.
Conte signed a three-year contract before becoming Chelsea head coach in July 2016, after leading Italy at the European Championship earlier that summer.
His deal was improved, but not extended, in July 2017 after the Premier League win, hinting at differences with the Blues hierarchy. The differences proved to be irreconcilable.
Conte did little to hide his dissent over Chelsea’s transfer business in the summer of 2017 and winter of 2017-18, making thinly-veiled criticisms of “the club”.
Thank you Mister for another Premier League title and FA Cup. It wasn’t easy for me to convince you in the beginning but in the end I hope I did you proud! Good luck for the future. #CFC— Cesc Fàbregas Soler (@cesc4official) July 12, 2018
There were also reports of friction with the players.
Playmaker Fabregas ‘liked’ a message welcoming Conte’s departure on Twitter, later apologising and suggesting he had pressed the button in error.
He then wrote on Twitter: “Thank you Mister for another Premier League title and FA Cup. It wasn’t easy for me to convince you in the beginning but in the end I hope I did you proud! Good luck for the future.”
Conte was Jose Mourinho’s permanent successor as boss and masterminded a revival from 10th place in 2015-16 to first in his maiden season in English football.
Chelsea beat Mourinho’s Manchester United at Wembley on May 19 for Conte’s second trophy of the spell, after which he said he was a “serial winner” who “can’t change”, citing his contract as he answered speculation it would be his final match in charge.
A fifth-placed finish in the Premier League, missing out on Champions League qualification and trailing 30 points behind winners Manchester City, did little to strengthen Conte’s argument to stay on.
And Chelsea are now looking for a 13th permanent boss of Roman Abramovich’s ownership, which began in June 2003.
Chelsea’s usual policy is to pay a sacked manager for the duration of their contract and, with no real top-tier jobs available, Conte could receive a salary from the Blues while out of the game.
This is arguably the toughest period of Abramovich’s ownership, with the Russian facing visa issues with the UK authorities.
Chelsea have also indefinitely postponed plans to rebuild Stamford Bridge in a scheme which would cost more than £1billion.
And the Blues face on-pitch challenges too, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal going from strength to strength.
Blues supporters will hope for a swift about-turn and progress at the club.
Chelsea’s first game of pre-season is the July 23 friendly with Perth Glory in Western Australia, while the transfer window for Premier League clubs closes on August 9.
Sarri has replaced Conte as boss before, with a short-lived spell at Arezzo in 2006-07 before Conte was reappointed.
Gianfranco Zola, the former Chelsea playmaker, has been linked with joining Sarri’s coaching staff, if his fellow Italian is appointed.
- Press Association