Football: Conte 'here to stay' at Chelsea

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte reacts during Chelsea's game against Manchester City on April 5, 2017.
Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte reacts during Chelsea's game against Manchester City on April 5, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was adamant on Friday (April 7) he was "here to stay" despite persistent rumours linking him with a move to Inter Milan after the end of the season.

The 47-year-old former Juventus and Italy head coach has impressed in his first season in England, which could yet end with Chelsea completing a Premier League and FA Cup double.

Conte signed a three-year contract a year ago before taking up his position with Chelsea last July.

He insisted Friday he was happy at the west London club, saying: "I stay here. I'm very happy to stay here.

"This is the most important thing. I don't like when I listen to other persons talking about me.

"I don't know why, but I think it's normal to try to involve my name in this situation.

"I worked in Italy. They want to come back for me in Italy.

"I have two more years of contract with Chelsea. This is the truth."

This week also saw talk that former Juventus and Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo could join Conte's coaching team after the end of the current campaign, when assistant boss Steve Holland joins England full-time.

Pirlo is currently playing for New York City FC in the United States' Major League Soccer.

"In this period I'm listening (to) a lot of things," Conte said. "This is very strange, for example: Andrea Pirlo is playing and he wants to continue to play."

Conte added his key aim now was for "a good season to become a great season for us".

The Blues have a seven-point lead over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur entering this weekend's fixtures.

Conte insisted that while Chelsea and Spurs are the main contenders, the title race was wide open, even though his table-toppers are 12 points in front of third-placed Liverpool, who've played a game more.

"This race is open," he said. "I think now I can see two teams, Chelsea and Tottenham, in this race. But anything can happen because there are 24 points (to play for) and other rivals can go in this race."

Chelsea travel to Bournemouth on Saturday having responded to a shock loss to Crystal Palace with victory over Manchester City on Wednesday.