Alessandro Costacurta, the vice commissioner of the Italian Football Federation, has identified Chelsea boss Antonio Conte as his first choice to become Italy manager and will approach him in the near future to discuss it.
Costacurta, who is responsible for deciding the next national team boss, told Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t the Telegraph): “I haven’t chosen yet but I think Conte is the one who could do the best. I’ll definitely talk with him in a couple of months.”
Conte is on the former AC Milan and Italy defender’s shortlist along with Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini and Claudio Ranieri.
He added: “[Conte] has already shown he knows how to be national team coach while the others haven’t yet. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy with Mancini or with Ancelotti—although [Ancelotti] seems to have removed himself from consideration.”
Under-21 boss Luigi Di Biagio is currently serving as interim manager after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked in November after Italy missed out on a place in the 2018 World Cup.
Conte enjoyed a spell as Azzurri coach between 2014 and 2016, taking Italy to the quarter-finals of the European Championship, where they were knocked out on penalties by Germany.
BeIN Sports USA’s Matteo Bonetti felt Conte did an excellent job at the tournament:
Every Italian should be damn proud of what this team did at the Euros. A tireless, overachieving bunch. Took the favorites to penalties.
— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) July 2, 2016
He made the side greater than the sum of their parts, something Ventura evidently failed to replicate.
ESPN FC’s Liam Twomey believes the Chelsea manager would prefer not to return to Italy at this stage, though:
Conte may be Italy's first choice, but I doubt Italy would be top of Conte's list.
— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) February 27, 2018
Having already taken two seasons out of club football to manage the national team, it’s understandable Conte is not keen to do it again so soon, particularly as he’d be inheriting a demoralised squad in need of rebuilding.
What’s more, despite a mixed second season at Chelsea, his stock is high after winning the Premier League last year, and it could climb further still if the Blues progress past Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League. If he were to move on this summer, he would likely have plenty of suitors to choose from.
It’s understandable that Italy want him back, but they may have to turn to one of their other candidates.