Gianfranco Zola has admitted that Antonio Conte wasn’t the same man we saw last season and that the Italian manager may be heading for a Stamford Bridge exit. Conte received plaudits as one of the great tacticians in the Premier League after helping Chelsea to the Premier League title in the 2016/17 season.

However, it has not been the case this season as Chelsea finished fifth on the log and subsequently missed out on a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League competition, due to inconsistencies which blighted the club’s performance.

Although there has been no admittance of a sour relationship between the manager and the Chelsea chiefs, he has apparently been at odds with them since the previous summer transfer window and is reportedly on his way out of Chelsea.

Conte was recognized for his wild and fiery manner on the touchline in his first season but appeared to be uncharacteristically cold this season, and Chelsea legend Zola has reflected on what has been a strange season for the Italian and for Chelsea.

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“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.”

Ahead of the FA Cup final against Manchester United in Wembley, in which they have the chance to salvage some glory with a silverware, Zola added:

“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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