Gianfranco Zola admits Chelsea manager Antonio Conte wasn’t the same man we saw last season and that his countryman may well be heading for the exit door at Stamford Bridge.
Conte was hailed as one of the Premier League’s great tacticians after guiding the Blues to the title in his first campaign in charge.
But their defence fell by the wayside this term. Chelsea finished fifth, missing out on a Champions League place, after a season of inconsistency on the pitch and turmoil off it.
Though denying any fall-out with the club, the coach has apparently been at odds with Chelsea chiefs ever since they failed to back in the previous summer transfer window, and is widely beleived to be on his way out this summer.
Conte was famed for his wild and fiery manner on the touchline during his first year in charge, but the former Italy boss has been more of a brooding presence this term.
And Zola has reflected on what has been a ‘strange’ season for Chelsea and his fellow Italian in the hotseat.
“It’s been a very long season for Antonio,” Zola told Friday’s Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast.
“He hasn’t been the Antonio we saw last year.
“At many times we saw his long face and it wasn’t good for him and it wasn’t good for the team.
“I really hope something happens because I honestly have a high opinion of him as a coach, as well as a person.
“If you ask me, I really don’t know. I’m more likely to think he might leave.”
Chelsea do have the opportunity to end the season on a high on Saturday when they face Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
And Zola believes the Blues will be extra motivated to lift the trophy after their dismal Premier League title defence, as they finished a massive 30 points adrift of champions Manchester City.
“It’s been a strange season for Chelsea,” the Stamford Bridge hero added.
“They’ve been doing some good things, but then all of a sudden it goes. Knowing the personality of the players and the manager, it’s been a strange thing to me.
“Everyone knows how important the game is tomorrow and what winning the trophy would mean, so I’m sure the players are focussed on ending the season in the proper way.”
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