This time last year, Antonio Conte was on his way to orchestrating a brilliant debut campaign in the Premier League with Chelsea, where he won the title in his first season in charge.
Few managers will be able to impose themselves on a Premier League club like the Italian did and win the title in his first season in charge in a new country. But that’s what he managed.
And there was no doubt in trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich’s mind that he must keep ahold of the former Juventus and Italy boss.
But despite a magnificent first season in charge at Stamford Bridge for Conte, and the Blues’ desire for the Italian to extend his contract, he only agreed fresh terms in mid-July.
And to Chelsea’s dissatisfaction, he only increased the financial value of his deal rather than agree to an extension of his contract which is set to expire in 2019.
Conte recently told Italian broadcaster, Radio 1, that there was “not a doubt in my mind that I will be home before long”, adding: “I miss Italy, that’s beyond doubt, so once I have had some important and life-changing experiences, I will be back.”
They are discouraging signs for the west Londoners, who have been hit by further reports that, despite agreeing to new terms at Chelsea, could still walk away at the end of the season.
Conte remains interested in Chelsea exit
According to The Times, sources close to Conte have signalled his interest in quitting Stamford Bridge at the end of the campaign, despite only signing a new £19.2 million deal nearly three months ago.
However, that will in no way be down to the interest shown by Inter Milan in his services earlier in the year.
The Italian has long been dissatisfied by the club board’s lack of backing, which includes some of their failed and slow dealings in the summer transfer market and the inaccessibility of Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea’s owner and his senior executive Marina Granovskaia have come under fire by the Italian, along with the 48-year-old’s ideas on the promotion of academy players at the club.
Clause denied Italian’s summer departure
And it appears only a contractual sting stopped Conte from walking out on the London club this summer, with his friends indicating a severe financial penalty was in place.
It’s believed the ”claw-back’ clause would have stood at around £20 million – the amount that was also written into Jose Mourinho’s contract, during his time in charge at the Bridge.
Fellow Italian Carlo Ancelotti, however, could move in the opposite direction if Conte forces an exit next summer, with the axed Bayern Munich boss understood to be keen on a Premier League return.
Ancelotti was previously in charge of the Blues between 2009 and 2011.