Conte is Italy's top choice for national coach

CHELSEA manager Antonio Conte is Italy's top choice as national coach.
Conte is Italy's top choice for national coach

Napoli striker Dries Mertens (center) scores a goal against Cagliari during their Italian Serie A match at Sardinia Stadium in Cagliari on Monday. Napoli took advantage of Juventus’ postponed match and routed Cagliari 5-0 to open up a 4-point lead at the top. Second-place Juventus had its match against Atalanta on Sunday postponed due to a snowstorm. Napoli is chasing its first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led the club to its only two championships in 1987 and 1990. 

CHELSEA manager Antonio Conte is Italy’s top choice as national coach.

“I haven’t chosen yet but I think Conte is the one who could do the best,” Italian federation vice commissioner Alessandro Costacurta told yesterday’s Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’ll definitely talk with him in a couple of months.”

Conte, whose future at Chelsea remains uncertain, already coached Italy to the quarterfinals of the 2016 European Championship before joining the London club.

Other coaches being considered by Costacurta include Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti, and Claudio Ranieri.

“(Conte) has already shown he knows how to be national team coach while the others haven’t yet,” said Costacurta, the former AC Milan and Italy defender who is in charge of selecting the coach under the federation’s emergency administration.

“That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy with Mancini or with Ancelotti — although (Ancelotti) seems to have removed himself from consideration.”

Gian Piero Ventura was fired in November after failing to qualify four-time champion Italy for the World Cup. Luigi Di Biagio was promoted from the under-21 squad as an interim replacement.

Italy plays friendlies against Argentina and England next month and doesn’t have an official match until the Nations League starts in September.

Conte coached Italy from 2014-16 but announced his move to Chelsea before Euro 2016. He has one more season remaining on his 3-year contract with the Blues.

Upon leading Chelsea to the English Premier League title in his first season at Stamford Bridge, Conte signed fresh terms with the club but was given only a pay rise — not an extension.

Chelsea is 5th in the EPL, risking missing out on the Champions League places.

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