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Maurizio Sarri Reportedly Chelsea's Top Choice to Replace Antonio Conte

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2018

Napoli's Italian coach Maurizio Sarri reacts during the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo vs Napoli at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia on March 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI        (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
TIZIANA FABI/Getty Images

Chelsea have reportedly made Maurizio Sarri their top choice to replace Antonio Conte as manager this summer after the Napoli boss "indicated his wish to leave Serie A at the end of the season in search of a fresh challenge," per MailOnline's Joe Strange.

Strange pointed out how "Napoli are already on the lookout for someone to replace Sarri, who they expect to join Chelsea ahead of the new season."

The report also detailed how tempting Sarri from Serie A would cost the Blues as much as £7 million, while axing Conte this summer would mean footing a bill of £9 million.

Conte seems set to be replaced after a troubled second campaign in charge at Stamford Bridge. Despite winning the Premier League title and reaching the FA Cup final in 2017, the former Juventus boss has struggled to maintain success.

Conte looks headed for the exit at Stamford Bridge.
Conte looks headed for the exit at Stamford Bridge.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Chelsea have slipped from first to fifth this season, putting the possibility of playing UEFA Champions League football in 2018/19 in doubt. The Blues need a top-four finish, but they trail London rivals Tottenham Hotspur by eight points, although they have a game in hand.

Searching for Conte's potential successor has led Chelsea to former Barcelona chief Luis Enrique and ex-Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel, according to Strange.

However, Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph reported those around owner Roman Abramovich want a fresh commodity over an established name. Ideally, it would mean hiring Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, but Law noted Chelsea have acknowledged the prospect is unlikely.

Sarri is 59, so he's far from a young upstart, but he has only recently crafted a reputation others are taking notice of. His work at Napoli has made the club a strong challenger to Juventus' dominance of the Italian top flight.

Pochettino is also reportedly on the Chelsea radar.
Pochettino is also reportedly on the Chelsea radar.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Napoli are second but six points behind the Bianconeri in what has been a tough title race.

More than putting up a challenge, Sarri's squad has earned plaudits for their style of football. Napoli play an expansive game based on intelligent passing and a relentless pursuit of goals.

Sarri appears keen to succeed Conte, with La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Tom Coast of Sport Witness) describing him as "very intrigued" by the idea.

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