UPDATE: Tavecchio has resigned as President of the Italian FA; though that probably doesn’t change their shortlist for the new coach too much.
Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio has resigned after country's failure to qualify for the World Cup— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) November 20, 2017
Antonio Conte didn’t win anything during his two years in charge of the Italian national team, but his run to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 garnered plenty of praise and attention as he largely overachieved with a subpar side. It was generally accepted that the talent pool simply wasn’t as deep as usual for Conte to choose from, and that Italy only got as far as they did and played as cohesively as they did (especially against Belgium and Spain) because of the coach’s tactics and motivational skills — an even greater achievement once we consider that by then Conte had already accepted the Chelsea job and knew he was leaving the team.
In fact, just before Italy were eliminated by Germany in a penalty kick shootout, Conte spoke of the brotherhood that had developed within the squad and how it was going to be tough for him to leave in the end and how he would hope to return one day.
"As for my future, you've also heard the players themselves say I'm a real animal out there. I'm someone who really becomes very close to the people I work with. I've made a decision. I've taken a choice. I will have a significant experience abroad, but clearly Italy does have a place in my heart, from every perspective.
"And I really hope to be Italy coach again in the future because there is no experience like being the head coach of the Italian national side."
-Antonio Conte; June 2016
Perhaps that last part is what the Italian FA are banking on when they put Antonio Conte back on top of their wishlist, now that they’ve washed their hands of Gian Piero “I’M NOT FUNNING LEAVING” Ventura.
"It is all the fault of Ventura, he chose the staff, he has done all of it. We as a federation have never interfered."
"We are seeking the best. [Massimiliano] Allegri, [Roberto] Mancini, [Carlo] Ancelotti....these are the names, I say getting warmer. And Conte? Fire."
-Carlo Tavecchio; source: GdS via Sky
Considering that Conte has indeed built a “blazing inferno” at Chelsea, the Italian FA President’s description is quite apt. And Conte himself has been keeping an eye on developments, as one would expect him to do as someone who cares deeply about his national team, and has urged the Italian FA to not rush into any decision and make a better appointment than when they had to replace him.
Given those facts, and the constant calls by former players such as Alessandro del Piero for Conte to return, it’s easy to put together stories and rumors to that effect.
But everybody would do well to remember why Conte wanted to quit Italy in the first place: he was bored. He needed the day-to-day excitement and commitment and responsibility of club management. Conte isn’t a caretaker; he’s a coach in the truest, classic sense. He needs a to live every day with his players, not just once a month or every few months.
“Conte will leave the national team after the European Championship. He hears the call of the [training] pitch and of daily work, which is understandable.”
-Carlo Tavecchio; March 2016
"I have thought about it and weighed up my decision and when I had no more doubts, I informed the president — the one who chose me and wanted me here. I feel a great desire to work.”
-Antonio Conte; March 2016
“Anyone who knows me knows that my commitment [to Italy] will be total. Then I feel I must go back to coaching a club where training takes place every day,”
-Antonio Conte; March 2016
“I am very excited about the prospect of working at Chelsea Football Club. I am proud to be the coach of the national team of my country and only a role as attractive as manager of Chelsea could follow that. I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the club and the day-to-day challenge of competing in the Premier League.”
-Antonio conte; April 2016
Conte has never stayed more than three years at any one of his previous managerial jobs, so he will likely move on from Chelsea at some point in the not so distant future — and if that doesn’t happen on his own terms, it will have been because of sacking, which is just a fact of life at Chelsea Football Club.
I don’t personally see him back in international management regardless of what happens, but as everyone is so fond of saying in football, you never truly know what’s going to happen. But is this something we should worry about right now? Probably not.
P.S.: Hands off, Italian FA!