Football

Hiddink tips Conte to stay

Guus says there's no reason for Italian to leave Stamford Bridge after transforming the club

Guus Hiddink, Antonio Conte's immediate predecessor as Chelsea boss, reckons the Italian will stay at Stamford Bridge due to "perfect circumstances" at the club.

Conte has rejuvenated Chelsea, who clinched the Premier League title with a 1-0 win at West Brom on Friday and can claim a double in his first season in charge with victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup final on May 27.

The former Juventus and Italy boss has been non-commital over his future, with Inter Milan making overtures.

But the 47-year-old can be expected to be rewarded for a successful season with a new contract offer 12 months into the three-year deal he signed on joining last summer.

Hiddink told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme: "There are always rumours coming up, but the club are very stable.

"It's a huge club to work for, perfect circumstances and very ambitious people. I think it's more rumour than reality."

Chelsea won the 2014-15 title under Jose Mourinho, who was sacked for a second time seven months later after the Blues imploded.

Hiddink was brought in as caretaker boss for a second time, steadying the team to a 10th-placed finish before owner Roman Abramovich turned to Conte.

Hiddink did not wish to dwell on what had happened under Mourinho when he returned to Chelsea, but can see how Conte has transformed what was a dysfunctional unit.

The Dutchman added: "The dressing room was quiet, too quiet, people avoiding each other a bit. We managed to overcome the problems and I didn't want to go too deep into what were the problems.

"(Now) I see a very, very stable team and a team enjoying playing football."

Hiddink held talks with Conte before the former Italy boss took up the Chelsea job after Euro 2016, and helped with his transition.

"Now it's a confirmation of his attitude, his professionalism, plus, of course, his energy, which he's putting in the team," Hiddink said.

"He has also a very strong management team, with his coaches and Steve Holland. It's nice to see his development of the club."

Assistant coach Holland will leave Chelsea at the end of this season to take up a full-time role with England.

Conte, meanwhile, also intimated his desire to stay at Chelsea, believing the Blues can get even better after their Premier League title triumph.

He said: "We started to do our work. We have to improve in the next season, to find the right solution to improve.

"We are working (for) only nine months together. I think if you can continue with these players, you can improve a lot.

"Now they know my idea, I know them, the characteristics of my players. And we 
can improve."

Conte wants to keep his best players and strengthen his squad ahead of next season's Champions League return, but there is fervent speculation over the future of striker Diego Costa, in particular.

"The club want to fight to win every competition. We have the same ambition. For this reason, we try to keep the best players," said Conte.

- PA SPORT

eplCHELSEA (EPL)Antonio Conte