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Antonio Conte Reportedly Favourite to Replace Guus Hiddink as Chelsea Manager

Italy's coach Antonio Conte talks on his mobile phone before the start of the final draw of the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament in Paris on December 12, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP / LIONEL BONAVENTURE        (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2016

Italy manager Antonio Conte is reportedly regarded as the "leading candidate" to replace interim Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink at the club's helm this summer.

According to the Daily Mail's Kieran Gill, the former Juventus chief met with representatives from the Premier League outfit before Christmas and is "ready to leave the Italy team."

An extract from the report read:

Talks are set to resume between Conte and Chelsea before the end of the Barclays Premier League season in May and ahead of Euro 2016 in France.

Mauricio Pochettino and Massimiliano Allegri are among other names being linked with the Stamford Bridge hot seat, as Chelsea begin to accept that Pep Guardiola is heading for Manchester City.

If Chelsea do appoint a new manager at the end of this season, it will be their third boss in the space of a year, with Jose Mourinho having been handed his marching orders in December following a miserable run of form.

Should Conte be the man to take over the west Londoners' hot seat, it won't be until after UEFA Euro 2016, where the Azzurri find themselves in the "Group of Death" alongside world No. 1-ranked Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

Conte won three Serie A titles with Juventus between 2012 and 2013.
Conte won three Serie A titles with Juventus between 2012 and 2013.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

That lineup means Italy's chances of making it to the final on July 10 may not be all that bright, and Chelsea can hold out hope of recruiting their No. 1 managerial target sooner rather than later over the summer period.

Chelsea's defence in particular has been out of character this season, and FourFourTwo's Adam Digby gave some insight as to what Conte could offer the Blues stylistically:

Those stubborn influences don't sound too far from the rigid attributes often displayed by Mourinho's Chelsea—at least when the team was more successful, such as last season's Premier League triumph.

Di Marzio's David Amoyal outlined Conte's motivational powers:

Gill reported Conte is looking for the first challenge of his managerial career outside Italy, having spent his entire playing career in his native country's top two tiers with Lecce and Juventus before finding success from the sidelines.

As a player, the 46-year-old won five Serie A titles and a Champions League crown with the Bianconeri, and he led the Turin outfit to three consecutive Scudetti between 2012 and 2014.

Gill provided quotes from ex-Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who previously spoke highly of his coach at the Old Lady: "I have dealt with many coaches in my career but Conte is the one who surprised me the most. He needed just one speech, with many simple words, to conquer both me and Juventus. If Arrigo Sacchi was a genius, then what is he? I expected him to be great, but not that great."

Conte also won Serie A's Coach of the Year award for each of those triumphs as his Juve team ran rampant among Italy's elite, ending 17 points ahead of runners-up Roma in his last season at the helm (2013-14)

Conte's two-year deal with Italy expires after Euro 2016, meaning he'd also be among the cheapest options for Chelsea as they look to ignite another era of success following a rocky run of late.

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