Antonio Conte is currently 1/12 on to become the next manager of Chelsea, but those odds will inevitably shorten further over the next few days after it emerged that the Blues’ squad have been told the Italian coach will take over at Stamford Bridge this summer.
According to Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport, Chelsea’s billionaire owner himself, Roman Abramovich, recently informed the squad of Conte’s planned arrival at the club’s training ground in Cobham.
The Chelsea players were reportedly told the news on February 26, a day before the club’s 2-1 victory over Southampton at St. Mary’s.
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Conte is expected to be announced as Chelsea’s next permanent manager as early as this month.
The 46-year-old will remain in charge of the Italian national team until the conclusion of this summer’s European Championships in France before taking the reins at the Bridge.
Chelsea in great form under Hiddink
It was reported earlier this week, by The Times, that Conte has already advised his future employers to sign two Serie A stars: AS Roma duo Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan.
Chelsea, though, are on a decent run of form with their current group of players.
Since Jose Mourinho was sacked in December, Chelsea have suffered just one defeat in 16 matches - against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League - and are unbeaten in the Premier League.
Guus Hiddink, Chelsea’s interim manager, has done a remarkable job of steadying the ship and, following Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over Norwich City, the Blues suddenly have an outside chance of securing Europa League football for next season.
Hiddink’s men are up to tenth in the table, eight points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.
Hiddink looking to secure European football
With just 10 matches of the season remaining, a top-four finish is probably a little out of Chelsea’s reach - but they are the Premier League’s form team at the moment and should, with the quality in their ranks, pick up a significant number of points between now and May.
“We have to set new targets in the direction of Europe,” Hiddink was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail this week. “We'd like to go as high as possible. It is not Chelsea's standard to be happy to be out of the relegation zone.”
Why Conte needs Chelsea competing in Europe
Conte will certainly be grateful if Chelsea are able to secure European football.
The Blues have a big squad designed to be competing on multiple fronts and a lack of European football could cause the Italian coach a few selection problems next season.
Is Antonio Conte the perfect manager for Chelsea or should they stuck with Guus Hiddink? Have your say by leaving a comment below.