Italy still an irresistible siren call for homesick Conte

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte during the Chelsea press conference, in Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain, on Sept 26, 2017.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte during the Chelsea press conference, in Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain, on Sept 26, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MILAN • Antonio Conte has admitted that he misses Italy and plans to return to his homeland in the near future, saying that though his experience with Chelsea has been overwhelmingly positive, there is "not a doubt in my mind that I will be home before long".

During an interview with Italian radio station RadioUno, the London football club's manager spoke at length about his feelings for Italy.

"I miss it, that's beyond doubt," he said. "Italy is my homeland, so once I have had some good experiences, formative experiences, important and life-changing experiences, I'll be back. I don't know when but that's the aim."

The 48-year-old from Lecce, in the heel of Italy, ruled out the possibility of working in China, but admitted some uncertainty over what might happen in the remainder of his career.

"It's always difficult to predict the future," he said. "Us managers have the most precarious job of all. Today you're working, tomorrow you're out. I want to succeed, to finish one project and make the right decision about the next.

"This experience has given me so much, has improved me so much, but perhaps in the future, I won't be a manager. Perhaps I'll work as a director of football. I don't know."

Having won the league in his first season at Chelsea, Conte said the club have made no specific demands about his second.

"The Premier League is an extremely difficult competition," he said. "Six teams are in contention for the title and this year, the battle will be harder still - the two Manchester (City and United) clubs, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal, it really is a great battle. Chelsea haven't given me any particular target, we simply try to do our best."

As for club football in his homeland, Conte believes "Serie A is in the process of coming back, but all the best players want to play in the English championship".

Conte recalled his first few games at Chelsea, mentioning the giant Italian flag with which the fans welcomed him at his first game and saying that "the feeling was wonderful from the beginning".

"It was great also because the previous year, things hadn't gone well for Chelsea, who ended up 10th in the table," he said. "To win the league at the first attempt is always difficult, and in my case, it was my first experience abroad.

"The experience has enriched me and improved me in many different ways."

And he has no doubt Italy will make the World Cup in Russia next year. "I'm not afraid about us not going to the World Cup. I have no doubt, Italy will be there."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Italy still an irresistible siren call for homesick Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe