Antonio Conte has left his position as Inter Milan coach, it was announced on Wednesday. The move comes three weeks after Conte led the club to the Serie A title.
“FC Internazionale Milano can confirm that an agreement has been reached with Antonio Conte for the termination of his contract by mutual consent. The club would like to thank Antonio for the extraordinary work that he has done, culminating in Inter’s 19th top-flight title. Antonio Conte will forever remain a part of our Club’s history,” the club said in a statement.
Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport suggested the move was in part due to the club’s need to cut operating costs amid the coronavirus pandemic. The newspaper claimed Inter wanted to cut salary costs by 15-20% and player departures would be necessary, with Conte not keen to work with a “downsized” project.
Speaking after Inter’s last match of the season, a 5-1 win over Udinese, Conte’s assistant Cristian Stellini appeared to hint at the coach’s unrest over plans to sanction player departures.
“We are enthusiastic about continuing, but when you have a top coach, he requires a top project too,” Stellini told DAZN.
“[Players leaving] could change things, but it’s up to the club to make clear what the situation is.”
Inter made the high-profile signings of players like Romelu Lukaku, Christian Eriksen and Achraf Hakimi during Conte’s tenure and their arrivals spurred the club to great success.
“2014 we spoke for the first time and we have had a bond ever since,” Lukaku wrote on Instagram. “We had many moments to work together but only God knows why it never happened earlier. You came at the right time and basically changed me as a player and made me even stronger mentally and more importantly we won together!”
Inter were also part of a group of 12 clubs that had planned to launch a breakaway European Super League, before backing out. The club are said to be upwards of €500 million in debt, due to both the coronavirus and ambitious spending. The majority owner, the Chinese retailer Suning, has been dealing with the effects of a state-sponsored bailout and has been actively seeking new club investors.
As rumours regarding Conte’s future grew on Tuesday, a banner criticising Inter chairman Steven Zhang was unfurled at the club’s offices that read: “Zhang: take responsibility or get out of our town.” During the final stages of the Serie A season, Conte stopped attending prematch news conferences to avoid answering questions over his future as the coach.
Conte joined Inter in 2019 and steered the club to second in Serie A behind champions Juventus in his first season at the club, as well as losing the Europa League final to Sevilla FC. This season, he masterminded the club’s first Serie A title success in 11 years, and 19th overall, breaking Juve’s nine-year stranglehold on the trophy.
The Italian coach’s move to Inter came following his sacking at Chelsea in 2018. He was out of work for a year due in part to a lengthy and acrimonious legal battle that ended with a Premier League managers’ arbitration tribunal ruling in his favour. Chelsea were ordered to pay Conte around £9m — the amount owed for the final, unfulfilled year of his contract at Stamford Bridge — before he was free to return to Italy.
Conte won three Serie A titles as manager of Juventus and the Premier League during his spell at Chelsea, as well as the FA Cup.