Chelsea boss Antonio Conte not planning to be abroad 'for a long time'
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has told RAI Radio 1 that it is a "matter of fact" that he misses Italy, adding that it is unlikely he will spend the rest of his coaching career abroad.
The former Juventus and Italy coach was linked with a return to Italy in the summer, amid reports he was homesick and frustrated with Chelsea's transfer policy despite having guided the club to the Premier League title in his first season in England last term.
Conte signed a new contract in July, although that merely improved his terms and did not extend the length of his commitment at Stamford Bridge beyond the remaining two years of his initial deal.
The 48-year-old has confirmed that he does long to return to Italy, although he added that he still has a job to do for the Blues.
"For me, I do miss Italy and this I can say without any doubt, there is certainly no thought in my mind of remaining abroad for a long time," he said. "Italy is my country so, once I've had a good, learning experience, I will return to Italy.
"I don't know when it will be, but I'll come back. It's always hard to predict the future, especially for us coaches because it's one of the riskiest jobs around -- today you are in one place, tomorrow you are in another because you are dependent on results. As far as I am concerned, I always want to finish a project and for things to go the right way, but if you ask me if I miss Italy, then yes I do miss Italy, this is a matter of fact.
"Definitely this experience in England has enriched me a lot in all aspects. Like I said, it's not easy. In Italy, you have the comfort with the language, the way of life, the habits and you find people who are used to this way of life, so that makes it easier. I'm improving in many ways and in the future I don't know, maybe I'd like to try something different, maybe be a director or something else. Become a sporting director? I could."
Conte took over at Stamford Bridge last year after spending two years as manager of Italy, whom he led to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016.
He missed the day-to-day coaching of players during his spell in charge of the Squadra Azzurra, however, and jumped at the chance to join Chelsea, even if he admits it was a challenging yet at the same time rewarding first year in London.
"You have got to get used to a different language and this leads to a substantial loss of energy as you need to concentrate to work in a different language," Conte said. "For me, it's not easy to coach abroad.
"You find an atmosphere which is incredible in the stadiums, fans come to live the event and a festival and last year I saw scenes which left me open mouthed. I recall when we played against Middlesbrough and we beat them, earning almost certainly the title and sending them down, but the whole stadium of Middlesbrough was applauding their team.
"It was the same with Sunderland. They live football like a celebration. It matters to them that the players give everything for the shirt they are wearing, more than the result."
A 4-0 win at Stoke moved Chelsea up to third in the Premier League at the weekend, but Conte admits winning the title is going to be even harder this season.
"Definitely the English league is very, very difficult because there are six sides challenging for it, and this year there are even more big clubs, with the two Manchester clubs back who didn't do so well last year, Tottenham, who are a very, very good team, together with Liverpool and Arsenal -- it's a battle and you cannot say who will win the league.
"I've not been set any particular objectives. We're just looking to do better than last year. You build success over a process. As far as the Champions League is concerned, I think it's a process a team have got to go through; you've got to try to improve your squad year on year to make it more competitive, with good quality, prepared players.
"Sometimes people think you can win overnight, but to win you have to be good at constructing and working with and improving your squad."
Chelsea face Atletico Madrid in their second Champions League fixture of the season on Wednesday with Conte not yet wanting to see beyond a group stage which also includes Serie A side Roma.
"I don't think we've been lucky with the draw as we've got one of toughest groups," he said. "Atletico have always done well in recent years, reaching the final and semifinals, and they've got a good squad with a lot of experience.
"We're back after let's call it a sabbatical year, with a lot of enthusiasm and we've got the aim to do the best in this competition, which is very difficult. Roma are competitive in Italy and they can be equally competitive in the Champions League, so we've got to be careful."
After Wednesday's trip to Spain, Chelsea return to the Premier League with the visit of Premier League leaders Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.
"It's going to be a demanding game, especially given the context -- we play on Wednesday night at Atletico and then they make us play on Saturday, after just three days to recover," Conte said.
"It's going to be tough because Manchester City were already strong last year with Guardiola and this year they have tried to strengthen in the transfer market.
"We're going to have to be careful because Manchester City are a really great side with a great coach."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.