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Published: 14:47 | 21/3/16

Conte coy on Chelsea rumours

Italy manager Antonio Conte has played down reports linking him with a move Chelsea.

Conte will step down from his position with the Italian national team at the end of Euro 2016 in order to return to club management.

He has been heavily linked with the managerial vacancy at Stamford Bridge with reports claiming he has already agreed a three-year deal to become the permanent successor to Jose Mourinho.

However, speaking for the first time since announcing his intention to step down from his current position, Conte indicated that he was still open to offers from other clubs.

"It's not a taboo for me, but I could also mention the name of Italian clubs [as potential destinations]," he told reporters when asked about the Chelsea rumours.

"Right now, I am only thinking about a decision I have taken that is not superficial -- I've taken it and now we will see what the future holds, if there's something attractive abroad or in Italy.

"One thing's for sure and that is I won't be Italy coach for the next two years. I want to return to a club."

Conte has made no secret of his desire to return to club management and admits he has found it tough not to work with players on a daily basis.

"After we qualified for the European Championship, I was filled with satisfaction in seeing the lads do what I asked of them. That was when I thought about whether I could continue, but then four months passed [since seeing the players] and that was very tough," he explained.

"Going four months without working and imagining another two years like this - I struggled from this point of view. You need to work out what makes you happy and I know that I would really have found it hard to stay locked up in the garage.

"When you are in there, you can't even smell the grass. You've got to be objective and admit there are moments when being national team coach weighs you down.

"I've not told [Italian FA president Carlo] Tavecchio about my future plans -- all I had to tell him was that I was leaving. It was hard, because it's not easy to leave a group you've been working well with. It came down to a lot of things and I listened to my heart, like I did when I said yes to the national team.

"I was asked, rightly so, to be correct on all fronts and clarify my future prior to the European Championship. I feel I've thought about it well and pondered my decision, and when I was 100 percent sure of what I felt, I told the president, who is the person who wanted me and chose me.

"I told him my decision with great serenity, explaining to him a bit why I'd made this choice."

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