Chelsea hires Antonio Conte as manager; will start after Euro 2016
LONDON (AP) — Antonio Conte will take charge of Chelsea after completing his spell as Italy coach at the European Championship with the task of revitalizing a team in decline.
Roman Abramovich made Conte his 10th managerial appointment in 13 years as Chelsea owner despite the former Juventus player and coach facing match-fixing charges in Italy. There's a preliminary hearing in the case in Cremona on Tuesday although Conte's not required to attend.
Chelsea announced Monday that the 46-year-old Conte, who has coached Italy since 2014, signed a three-year contract to be Jose Mourinho's permanent successor.
"Everything is clear and we can end the speculation," Conte said. "I will continue to focus on my job with the Italian national team and will reserve speaking about Chelsea again until after the Euros."
Conte might only have a month to prepare for the new season if Italy reaches the Euro 2016 final on July 10, with the Premier League kicking off on Aug. 13.
"Antonio Conte has a record of consistent success in his career as a manager and as a player," Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said. "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."
Mourinho was fired in December halfway through Chelsea's dismal defense of the Premier League title, with Guus Hiddink returning for a second spell as interim manager to keep the seat warm for Conte. The London club is currently 10th in the league—25 points behind leader Leicester—and will not be playing in Europe next season.
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said confirming the appointment of "one of the most highly regarded managers in world football ... aids our future planning."
But Conte's reputation is on the line in the match-fixing case, where he is accused of sports fraud. The match under investigation involving him is Siena's 1-0 win at Albinoleffe in May 2011. Siena's 2-2 draw at Novara, also in May 2011, was dropped from the inquiry.
Conte, who has denied wrongdoing, served a four-month sports ban during the 2012-13 season when he was with Juventus.
Conte resigned from Juventus in 2014 to take charge of Italy. Considered the best of Italy's younger generation of coaches, Conte won the Serie A title with Juventus in each of his three seasons in charge. Juventus also achieved the rare feat of going unbeaten in the league in his first season.
Before that, Conte steered Siena to an immediate return to the top division after relegation in 2010 following spells with Arezzo, Bari—where he won the Serie B title—and Atalanta.
As a player with Lecce, Juventus and Italy, Conte showed steely determination and is known to demand the same commitment from his players as a coach.