Antonio Conte has left Inter Milan, despite leading the Nerazzurri to their first Serie A success in 11 years.
Amid financial issues, club chiefs wanted Conte to sell a number of key players this summer – while also taking a salary cut of his own.
However, Conte, who also won the Premier League during his tenure at Stamford Bridge, wanted to build on this year’s success, and was unwilling to part with a number of players he deemed “untouchable” – including Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
With neither side willing to budge, a decision has been made which sees Conte leave by mutual consent.
A deal has been agreed which will see the final year of his contract paid off, to the tune of £6million.
A statement on Inter’s website simply said: “FC Internazionale Milano announces that it has reached an agreement for the consensual termination of the contract with the coach Antonio Conte.
“The whole Club would like to thank Antonio for the extraordinary work he has done, which culminated in winning the nineteenth Scudetto.
“Antonio Conte will remain forever in the history of our Club.”
Ultras from the Curva Nord made their feelings clear on Wednesday ahead of Conte’s departure, hanging banners in front of the club’s headquarters, backing the manager.
One read: “Zhang take your responsibilities or leave our city”, with another declaring: “Resizing the champions is just foolish. Coaches, staff and players do not touch each other ”.
A delegation of fans duly met with Inter management.
Conte joined Inter in 2019 and immediately set about challenging former club Juventus’ dominance in Italy.
In his first season they finished in Italy’s top four and reached the final of the Europa League – falling to Sevilla in an epic final in Germany.
In his second campaign, with the Bianconeri undergoing their own identity crisis, Conte’s side, led by the goalscoring exploits of Lukaku and Martinez, took full advantage, ultimately claiming the Scudetto by 12 points.
Conte had subsequently been looking to press forwards in 2021-22 to further stamp home their domestic dominance – while also challenging in the Champions League’s latter stages.
But a meeting with chairman Steven Zhang left him to conclude that his ambitions were at odds with the club’s plans given their current finances.
The club are seeking to raise in excess of £70million through player sales this summer, with no first-team star seen as indispensible.
And in their meeting at club headquarters, Zhang also asked for the wage bill to be cut by 15-20 percent.
More talks with senior club staff will continue, as they seek to replace Conte on the touchline.
Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi, who has done a fine job at the Stadio Olimpico in recent years, is seen as a likely successor, while Max Allegri – who replaced Conte at Juventus previously – is another name in the frame.