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Antonio Conte to step down as Italy manager after Euro 2016 – but he wasn’t Chelsea’s first choice

Antonio Conte will step down as Italy manager after Euro 2016, which could pave the way for him to take the Chelsea job that he has been heavily tipped for, as Sky Sports reports.

Italian FA president Carlo Tavecchio has confirmed that the 46-year-old will not be renewing his contract with them, which expires after this summer’s tournament in France.

Conte was appointed as Italy boss in August 2014 after leaving Juventus, and now wants to return to the the day in, day out thrust of club management, according to Tavecchio.

“Conte will leave the national team after the European Championships,” Tavecchio is quoted as saying by The Independent. “He hears the call of the pitch and of daily work, which is understandable.”

Sky Sports reported last month that Conte is expected to sign a three-year deal to relieve interim boss Guus Hiddink of his duties at Stamford Bridge at the end of this season.

His representatives have already held positive negotiations with Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia as the Blues seek a long-term successor to Jose Mourinho, Sky Sports adds.

Conte has great pedigree as both a player and a manager. He led the Turin giants to three successive Serie A titles, having previously won five before hanging up his boots.

But former Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli has claimed that he was Roman Abramovich’s first choice, and that only his limited grasp of the English language ruled him out of the running.

He told Argentine radio station Radio Vorterix, according to the Standard Sport: “I had a meeting with Chelsea’s owner and he told me that I was the first option. I was about to be their new coach.

“But then Conte appeared and it became a competition between us.It was him or me. I needed some time in order to improve my English but this kind of club doesn’t give you that time.”

The Daily Star claimed over the weekend that Chelsea were paying for Conte’s English lessons as they prepare to appoint him as their next manager. No word from the Blues yet, though.

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