Deal close: Chelsea make major breakthrough in new manager hunt

By Italy correspondent Gianluigi Carrozzini

Chelsea are closing in on the appointment of Antonio Conte as their next manager, Football Insider sources understand.

A delegation from the Premier League champions met with the Italy boss in Rome last week and negotiations were said to have progressed smoothly.

An Italian source has told Football Insider that there has been subsequent dialogue between the two parties about Conte taking over at Stamford Bridge in the summer.

The 46-year-old has emerged as the favourite to replace interim manager Guus Hiddink, whose second spell in caretaker charge will come to an end when the season finishes.

Atletico Madrid boss Simeone is also in the sights of the Premier League champions as they work on a list of a targets, which also includes Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri and, to a lesser extent, Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli.

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Conte has impressed the Blues’ top brass, including owner Roman Abramovich and technical director Michael Emenalo.

The 46-year-old is believed to have already told the FIGC – the Italian football federation – that he wants to return to club management after this summer’s tournament.

He is ready for a new challenge outside of Italy, having previously won three Serie A titles with Juventus as a manager and five as a player. Sources also claim the Italian is continuing to take English lessons in preparation.

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Hiddink has made it clear he will leave Stamford Bridge after being drafted in for a second temporary stint in charge of the club, despite growing calls for him from the players to get the job on a permanent basis.

Jose Mourinho, who is in advanced talks to become the new manager of Manchester United at the end of the season, was sacked by Chelsea in mid December following a wretched run of results.