Antonio Conte admits he has found it difficult at times to adjust to life in England, but insists he is relishing the challenge of turning Chelsea back into Premier League champions this season.
Reports in Italy this week claimed that Conte felt homesick in London and was set to accept an offer to return home and take charge of Inter Milan at the end of the season, but there have also been suggestions in England that he is in talks over extending his contract at Stamford Bridge.
Conte dismissed any notion of an approach from Inter in a news conference at Cobham on Friday and while he concedes that living away from his wife and daughter — who visit regularly but remain in Italy — for the first time has posed problems, he says he has enjoyed the process of guiding Chelsea to the top of the table.
“This is my first season away, in a new country, with a new language and new habits, and it’s totally different from my past,” Conte said.
“For sure, to arrive here is not easy. It’s not easy when you start a season and you try a different situation. But I’m enjoying my time at Chelsea with my players.
“After seven months now, it’s really good if I see [compared to] the start of the season. I started two days after finishing the Euros with Italy, and to arrive at a club, with new players, a new club, to bring your ideas and to change something in the habits of my players, it’s not easy.
“But now I can say I’m very happy of my experiences so far with Chelsea, to have this relationship with the club, with my players. I’m sure we can improve a lot in the future.
“If you ask me if my family is missing me, honestly, I have to say yes, they are. It’s not easy to stay alone, and live this experience with my family still in Italy.”
Prior to his appointment as Chelsea head coach, Conte had never worked outside of Italy as a player or manager, but he says he has always been keen to experience different countries and cultures.
“In my mind, there is the will to find different experiences in different countries,” he added. “I think it’s fantastic to find these experiences. When I was a footballer, I played only for two teams: Lecce and Juventus. But, honestly, in my career I wanted to go and play in different countries.
“Now I am having this great experience in England, in an amazing league. For me, this is great. And I hope to live this experience with my family next season.”
Conte’s decision to switch to a 3-4-3 formation in late September has been transformative for Chelsea’s title ambitions and the fortunes of individual players — most notably Victor Moses, who was rewarded for his remarkable success in a wing-back role this season with a contract extension earlier this week.
“He’s shown himself to be a great player,” Conte said of Moses. “If you ask me if I imagined him in this new position, no. Not before.
“We started 4-2-4 and I always saw him as a winger, very good in one versus one, but a bit poor defensively. Then, when I decided to change the system, I wanted to try him in this new role and to work with him on defensive situations.
“He showed me great commitment to understand, to study the new role, above all in defensive situations. Now we have a complete player, offensively and defensively.”