From Italy to the Chelsea for Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte yesterday confirmed the worst-kept secret in football as he was named as Chelsea’s new head coach yesterday.

Conte, 46, currently manager of Italy, will move to London on a three-year deal after the European Championships in France. Italy play Ireland in their final Group E fixture.

Conte was linked with the Blues following the departure of Jose Mourinho in December after Chelsea made their worst start to a top flight campaign for 30 years.

Dutchman Guus Hiddink has been in charge since December 19 but his second stint as interim coach was never going to last longer than the end of this season.

Conte has become the seventh man to be named the permanent Chelsea manager by Roman Abramovich since the Russian bought the club in 2003. Given that Mourinho has been installed at Stamford Bridge on two occasions, Conte’s long-term appointment is the eighth of Abramovich’s reign.

“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,” Conte said in a statement on Chelsea’s website.

“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.”

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “Antonio Conte has a record of consistent success in his career as a manager and as a player.

“We look forward to welcoming him to Stamford Bridge and are confident he will find all he needs to maintain that high standard of achievement.”

Chelsea’s fortunes have stabilised, under Hiddink who took over with the 2014-2015 champions mired in 16th place having won only four of their opening 16 league matches.

Saturday’s 4-0 win at Aston Villa was their 15th unbeaten league match since Mourinho left, but they are still only in 10th place in the Premier League with no chance of retaining their title or winning a trophy this season.

Their 13-year unbroken run in the Champions League will also end, and it is very unlikely they will be in the Europa League next season either.

Conte will be the fifth Italian to manage Chelsea, following previous incumbents Gianluca Vialli, Claudio Ranieri, Carlo Ancelotti, and Roberto Di Matteo.

He played more than 400 games for Juventus and went on to manage the club to three successive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2014.

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