Antonio Conte has left Juventus after four years with the Italian club, with suggestions that the forced sale of midfielder Arturo Vidal to Manchester United could be the reasoning behind his surprise exit.
The 44-year-old departs after winning three consecutive Serie A titles, and the expectation was that he would lead the Old Lady into the new season as Juventus look to retain their title as well as launch a serious attempt to win the Champions League for a first time since 1996.
But the news was broken late on Tuesday evening on the club’s website, and despite having a year left to run on his contract, Conte confirmed he was leaving via a video message.
“I have decided to terminate my contract with Juventus,” he said.
“I have matured with time and my feelings led me to make this choice. It may be more difficult to keep winning with Juventus.
“An enormous thank you for what you have given to me as a player and as a coach. I have always been close to you. I want to say that the journey taken in recent years has been historic.
“Winning is difficult. It comes with a lot of effort, especially in a club like Juventus where there is the obligation of victory, but I showed I'm a winner.”
Manchester United: Potential summer transfer targets
Manchester United: Potential summer transfer targets
1/19 Arturo Vidal
The Juventus midfielder is among United's top targets this summer, particularly after impressing for Chile at the World Cup. Having helped his current team secure the Serie A title, Juventus aren't keen on letting him go.
2/19 Marco Reus
Rumoured to be near the top of United's target list, a possible swap deal involving cash and Shinji Kagawa has been mentioned. The Borussia Dortmund player would not be a cheap acquisition, especially given his recent declaration that he wants to stay at Dortmund next season
3/19 Arda Turan
Former manager David Moyes had been seen watching Turan, though his dismissal put a doubt over whether United were still interested. The winger's agent claims an offer has been made, so is the Atletico Madrid winger on his way to Old Trafford?
4/19 Arjen Robben
The Bayern Munich winger has said Van Gaal has offered him a place at Old Trafford if he wants it. Currently he's happy to stay where he is, but things can quickly change.
5/19 Claudio Marchisio
With Paul Pogba highly unlikely to be prised away from Juventus, United's attention could turn to team-mate Claudio Marchisio. The Italian international would provide some class and experience.
6/19 Mats Hummels
With defensive reinforcements high on United's list of priorities, Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels has unsurprisingly been linked with a move to Old Trafford. The German has been earmarked as the ideal replacement for the now-departed Rio Ferdinand and after his impressive showing at the World Cup, he's even more desirable.
7/19 Raphael Varane
Raphael Varane has already snubbed United once in his career, opting instead to join Real Madrid. It would surely take a big offer to prise the classy defender away now.
8/19 Seamus Coleman
Reportedly already the subject of a £15m bid, Seamus Coleman could be the man being lined up as the answer to United's problems at right-back.
9/19 William Carvalho
The Sporting Lisbon midfielder has reportedly been watched 15 times by Manchester United, although the £29m asking price could prove a stumbling block. The Portugal international has also been linked with Arsenal.
10/19 Xherdan Shaqiri
Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri has struggled to force his way into the first team at the Allianz Arena and could be a target for United as well as rivals Liverpool. His impressive displays for Switzerland this summer could make it harder to prise him away.
11/19 Alex Song
Barcelona are understood to be ready to let the former Arsenal player leave this summer. Could provide some strength to United's midfield. Could also bring embarrassment judging by his behaviour at the World Cup.
12/19 Fabio Coentrao
Supposedly came within hours of signing in January, the Portuguese left back could be brought in to provide back-up to Luke Shaw.
13/19 Julian Draxler
A long time Arsenal target, United are reportedly interested in pinching the young German with a bumper offer. Seems unlikely though. Arsenal also strongly interested.
14/19 Sami Khedira
The Germany international is reportedly being pursued by a host of sides, and United might be wise to get in the mix as they look to add some quality to a fairly feeble looking midfield. Real Madrid appear open to letting him go with the 27-year-old having just one year left on his contract. Arsenal and Chelsea are among the others keen on signing the World Cup winner.
15/19 Edinson Cavani
The Uruguayan hitman would prove pricey and tricky to snatch away from PSG and it seems unlikely United have enough to offer him.
16/19 Luciano Vietto
The Racing Club youngster has been impressing in Argentina for some time although a move directly to United would be something of a surprise.
17/19 Santiago Arias
Should a move for Seamus Coleman fail, PSV defender Arias is reportedly being lined up by United. Played for Colombia throughout the group stage of the World Cup.
18/19 Miralem Pjanic
Rumoured to part of a joint bid including teammate Benatia, the Bosnian midfielder is reportedly another on United's large hit list.
19/19 Kevin Strootman
Van Gaal knows Strootman well from working with him in the Netherlands set-up and has indicated he is interested. Roma are reluctant to sell whilst his recovery from a knee injury may prove a stumbling block.
Conte is tipped as the next Italy manager following the resignation of Cesare Prandelli following the World Cup, although former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is also in the running after he left Galatasaray after a year in charge of the Turkish club.
But Conte was quick to dampen rumours that he could become the next national team coach, adding: “Right now I'm thinking about the present and the decision taken.”
Reports suggest that Conte decided to leave after the club informed him they intend to sell Chile midfielder Vidal should United agree a deal with the club, after talks took place between the Premier League club and the player’s agent took place regarding a £35m deal.
United are said to be unwilling to shell out a large fee for Vidal, who were originally said to want £45m plus United winger Nani, but £35m appears to be closer to the mark that United officials are looking for.
Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon was quick to praise Conte for his work over the past four years, and labelled his departure as a big “loss” for the Italian champions, but admitted that he had left in place a strong club that can deal with his exit.
“We've lost a great coach but great players and a smart club remain in place,” said Buffon.
“Now we need to stay together even more and show what we're worth, disregarding Conte.”
Conte was also given a warm sending off from the club’s president Andrea Agnelli, who admitted to being “saddened” by his departure and called the 44-year-old a “great leader”.
“Dear Antonio, you have been a great leader and this news saddens me greatly,” he wrote in a statement published on the club’s official site.
“Three years together have led us to write history with three consecutive titles and two Italian cups.
“You have given a group of highly talented professionals who will be at the disposal of the new coach to continue writing the future.
“You are in the history of the Bianconeri colours and whatever choice you make, a Juventus victory will always make you smile.
“Antonio, thank you for everything. Til the end.”
Conte remains one of Juventus’ most successful and adored players, making over 500 appearances for the Bianconeri and winning five league titles in the process. He arrived at the club in 2011 from Siena, and managed to lead his Juventus side to an unbeaten season, clinching the Serie A at the first attempt.
However, he was banned for 10 months in 2013 – later reduced to a four month touchline ban – for failing to report attempted match-fixing during his time with Siena, and despite insisting his innocence, missed a large chunk of last season.
With Conte gone, former AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri is expected to be announced as the next man to lead Juventus, with the Associated Press reporting that a deal has been agreed for him to takeover. Mancini also stands a chance of taking the job should he be overlooked for the national team, although Allegri looks to have beaten him to the job.
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