Thursday , June 13 2024

Antonio Conte ‘could reach a deal to become Napoli coach this weekend’ as the club’s interest in Europa League-winning manager Gian Piero Gasperini cools ‘amid new Atalanta deal’

  • The former Chelsea and Juventus manager is keen to stay in his native Italy
  • Napoli are in dire need of a fresh start after three managers and 10th place 
  • Chelsea are ‘baffling’… Mauricio Pochettino has NOT failed – where do the Blues go from here? Listen to the It’s All Kicking Off! Podcast

Antonio Conte is drawing closer to being appointed as head coach at Napoli and a deal could be confirmed this weekend, according to reports in Italy. 

The former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager has been closely linked with the role at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona since April amid a torrid season for the 2023-24 Scudetto-winners. 

Napoli’s dismal title defence saw the side play under three different head coaches following the departure of Serie A-winning manager Luciano Spalletti, with his replacement Rudi Garcia lasting just six months before he was dismissed in November. 

His successor Walter Mazzarri was handed just a seven-month contract for his second stint at the club a decade on from his first spell, but was sacked after four months and replaced in February by Francesco Calzona. 

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But as the season comes to a close, Napoli ramped up their search for a head coach to start the next campaign afresh – and may have settled on the heavily decorated Conte. 

Antonio Conte has emerged as the heavy favourite to take over the head coach role at Napoli

Antonio Conte has emerged as the heavy favourite to take over the head coach role at Napoli

Rudi Garcia (pictured) was appointed after the departure of Luciano Spalletti

Walter Mazzarri returned to Napoli for a second spell which lasted just four months

The 2023-24 Scudetto winners have cycled through three managers this term – starting with Rudi Garcia (left) before he was replaced by Walter Mazzarri (right)

Francesco Calzona was appointed in February but is not expected to continue in the position

Francesco Calzona was appointed in February but is not expected to continue in the position

As per a number of Italian outlets including Sky Sport Italia, Conte has edged ahead of another of the club’s targets, Europa League-winning coach Gian Piero Gasperini. 

Gasperini claimed the first major trophy of his career on Wednesday night as his Atalanta side demolished Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in Dublin – handing Xabi Alonso’s dazzling team the first defeat of their 2023-24 campaign. 

The 66-year-old has been openly flirting with a move away from Bergamo, and said when asked about speculation connecting him to the role in Naples that he wasn’t resistant to the idea of being tempted into a new role. 

‘We are celebrating tonight, I will talk to the President tomorrow. We’ll see,’ Gasperini said when asked if he would be staying in his current role next season.

‘I am in an odd situation sort of like where I am married with children, but meet an absolutely beautiful woman.

‘Maybe that’s not a good example for me to say on television!’

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But Atalanta are thought to be keen to cling onto their manager, who has served in the role since 2016, and talks to extend his deal on Friday are said to have gone very well. 

As well as winning Europe’s second-tier club competition, Atalanta also finished fourth in Serie A after an impressive season. 

Napoli have also had long-range interest in Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini

Napoli have also had long-range interest in Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini

Third candidate Stefano Pioli is now a free agent after being sacked by AC Milan on Friday

Third candidate Stefano Pioli is now a free agent after being sacked by AC Milan on Friday 

Napoli are believed to be somewhat put off by the force it will take to prise Gasperini from their northern Italian rivals – whereas Conte has been a free agent since his March 2023 departure from Tottenham. 

As such, talks have stepped up, and Conte is even reported to be mulling a paycut in a bid to seal the deal. 

The third manager under consideration, Stefano Pioli, is also a free agent, having been sacked by AC Milan on Friday after five years at the club. 

Despite finishing second in Serie A, Milan are currently 19 points behind their loathed rivals Inter ahead of the final day of the season. 

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