Antonio Conte confident of landing Chelsea job
Italy coach Antonio Conte is becoming increasingly confident that he can land the job as Chelsea’s next permanent manager ahead of the club’s other top targets.
Chelsea have spoken to Conte as part of a due diligence process that has also seen them consider Jorge Sampaoli, Diego Simeone and Massimiliano Allegri.
But with Juventus hopeful of tying Allegri to a new contract and Simeone telling players that he is already planning for the summer at Atletico Madrid, Conte believes he is now the favourite for the Chelsea post ahead of Sampaoli.
And Conte is already believed to have identified Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan as a potential signing if he is appointed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
While Chelsea have attempted to keep their cards close to their chest over the club’s manager hunt, Conte has made no secret of the fact he is keen on becoming the Blues’ next permanent manager when his contract as the national coach of Italy expires after the European Championships.
Conte has told friends in Italy that he has spoken with Chelsea and that he believes he has a good chance of getting the job, despite the Stamford Bridge club’s interest in other names.
Out-of-work Sampaoli is a serious candidate for the Chelsea job but has never managed in Europe, while Conte’s chances have been boosted by the fact Allegri and Simeone currently appear more likely to stay at their present clubs.
Conte was on Chelsea’s radar when he was in charge at Juventus, before the Blues reappointed Jose Mourinho in 2013. The 46-year-old won three Serie A titles with The Old Lady before becoming Italy coach in 2014.
On Allegri’s future, Juventus chief executive Beppe Marotta said: “The conditions for Allegri's contract renewal are all there. Allegri has done very well. The cycle has just started with him and I believe we can continue with him.
“On top of that, finding a club better than Juventus isn't easy. I think that he can still get great pleasure from this team, thus there is no Allegri problem.”
Asked by players whether he is likely to join Chelsea in the summer, Simeone is believed to have said that he is focussed on Atletico and the Spanish club’s transfer plans.
Simeone wants to re-sign Chelsea striker Diego Costa for Atletico and has given no indication that he is preparing for a move to the Premier League, as he has made no attempt to start learning English.
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Conte and former Chile manager Sampaoli are both learning English, and Abramovich would be keen to strike an agreement with the Italian before the start of the European Championships, if he is indeed Chelsea’s top choice, so the club can get on with their summer plans.
Belgian midfielder Nainggolan would provide Chelsea with another option for one of the deep-lying positions, although his arrival would be bad news for either Nemanja Matic or the rejuvenated Mikel.
The 27-year-old would be a more realistic target for Chelsea than Paul Pogba, who played under Conte at Juventus and who the Blues made enquiries about at the end of last summer’s transfer window.
Other than highlighting incoming targets for the new manager, Chelsea will also start the process of identifying which players will head out of the exit door and one of those is likely to be number two goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Despite only signing last summer and deputising impressively while Thibaut Courtois was injured, Begovic has lost his place as the club’s FA Cup goalkeeper under Hiddink.
With it more apparent than ever that Courtois will be Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper no matter how well Begovic performs, the Bosnia international will be open to offers in the summer with Everton and Norwich City already interested.