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Chelsea could turn to Blanc, Grant if Sarri release clause isn’t cancelled

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Chelsea’s managerial situation continues to be a murky one, despite the fact that the FA Cup champions have kept Antonio Conte under contract to this point.

Former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri recently emerged as the favorite to take over in London next season, however, the Serie A side has insisted upon the fact that Chelsea buys out Sarri from his final two years at the club.

The Stamford Bridge side would owe Napoli over $9 million for Sarri’s services if they are in fact forced to pay for their top choice.

This comes after Napoli made its own managerial hire with the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti.

The Blues continue to pursue Sarri ahead of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign, but have turned their attention to two other candidates in the event that the club cannot find a way out of paying Sarri’s release.

Laurent Blanc and former Chelsea coach Avram Grant are among the names linked to the Chelsea job, however, Blanc hasn’t coached since leaving Paris Saint-Germain in 2016.

Meanwhile, Grant has most recently spent his time managing the Ghanaian national team before taking over with NorthEast United in the Indian Super League.

Wenger, Conte among favorites to replace Zidane

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The dust has barely settled at Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane announced his dramatic departure as manager, but already there’s plenty of talk about who could take charge of the Spanish giants next.

[ MORE: Guerrero cleared for World Cup ]

Zidane, 45, walked away from the Santiago Bernabeu just five days after winning his third-straight UEFA Champions League title as Real boss. Talk about a mic-drop moment…

His three years in charge of Los Blancos will surely go down in history as one of the greatest managerial stints ever and is unlikely to be replicated.

But who’s next in the notoriously toasty hot seat for Real’s president Florentino Perez? Real’s president seemed slightly stunned that Zidane had stepped down but knows he needs to act fast to keep his superstars in check over the summer and allow Real to build on their success.

Via Oddschecker, here’s a look at the favorites to replace Zidane.


Arsene Wenger – 3/1 – Now this would be something, wouldn’t it? Real have tried to get Wenger in the past but the Frenchman always resisted their advances to remain in charge of his beloved Arsenal. Now he’s a free man and has been speaking about his next managerial move being overseas, what’s to stop this happening? Could Wenger handle the egos of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale? His style of play would certainly delight the Real fans and this would be some way for Wenger to get back on the coaching carousel.

Antonio Conte – 4/1 – Look, his stock is still incredibly high across Europe despite what happened at Chelsea this season. A Premier League title, a fifth-place finish and an FA Cup in his two seasons at Stamford Bridge isn’t bad at all and Conte has proven he can work with big-name players at Juventus, Italy and Chelsea. Real could do a lot worse and Conte and Chelsea may have found the perfect escape route for their uncomfortable situation as the Italian enters the final year of his contract.

Mauricio Pochettino – 6/1 – Now, the Argentine has just signed a new long-term deal with Spurs until 2023 and seems very happy at Tottenham. There are also reports out there that Tottenham didn’t include a release clause in Pochettino’s new deal, so it seems as though he’s staying put at White Hart Lane. But come on, it’s Real Madrid. Daniel Levy will be keen to halt the conveyor belt from North London to the Spanish capital (Ahem, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric) and stopping Pochettino from jumping ship is pivotal to keeping the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli wanting to join him in Spain. Poch will manage Real one day, that much is true. But this could be slightly too early for him.

Guti – 6/1 – Remember this guy? What a fine head of hair he had during his playing days with Real as a twinkle-toed central midfielder. Guti has been working hard behind-the-scenes at Real with their academy players and the U-19 coach is well-respected at the club. Promoting from within worked out pretty well for Florentino Perez and his board before. That said, Guti doesn’t quite have Zidane’s stature in the game so again, it may be a few years before he could take the reins. A good back-up option and a Real legend.

Massimiliano Allegri – 12/1 – It appears that he may well remain at Juventus but the Italian tactician is yet to commit his future to Juve and this opportunity would surely be intriguing for him. A coach who loves the art of defending may find it a little tough to drill the flamboyant Real stars, but for sustainable, long-term success, he’s your man. Allegri has built a fine squad at Juve and a group of players who play together instead of individuals.


Report: Napoli’s Sarri in as next Chelsea manager?

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Antonio Conte hasn’t been relieved of his managerial duties at Stamford Bridge; at least not yet, however, reports out of Italy are suggesting the Blues are in line for a new boss.

Gazzetta del Sport is reporting that Chelsea is preparing to hire Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri, who remains under contract with the Serie A side.

The report says that Sarri is preparing his staff to make the move to London, although both managers are currently tied to their clubs.

Additionally, Sky Italy has stated that an agreement in principle has been reached between Sarri and Chelsea, assuming Conte leaves the Blues.

Chelsea wouldn’t have to pay Sarri’s $9 million release clause if they wait until after Thursday to complete a deal.

Conte endured an up-and-down 2017/18 season with the Blues, however, Chelsea did manage to close the year on a high note with an FA Cup title.

Meanwhile, Sarri has held his post at Napoli since 2015, guiding the club to top three finishes in all three seasons in Italy’s top flight.

Willian “edits” Conte out of FA Cup champions photo

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Willian is not a fan of Antonio Conte.

Come to another conclusion if you like, but it’s hard to argue the Brazilian wizard’s feelings following his Instagram post after Chelsea beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: Matic wants squad changes at Man Utd ]

Willian covered his manager in trophies following the win, and it’d be a stretch to call that a tribute to the Italian’s tactical brilliance.

The player recorded seven goals and six assists despite playing less than all but 12 Chelsea players in league play (12th place Alvaro Morata had 11 and 6).

We’re accepting alternative explanations for the since-deleted Instagram photo below:

Conte’s tumultuous season concludes with Chelsea glory

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When Antonio Conte arrived on the London scene in 2016 he ruffled some feathers, and for the most part it worked out in his favor during his debut campaign at Stamford Bridge.

Several innovative changes resulted in a Premier League title for Chelsea last season, and immediately it seemed as though the Italian manager would be in line to become a fan favorite for many years to come in the English capital.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Man United ]

Conte’s second year in charge resulted in significantly more ups and downs though, including inconsistent form in the UEFA Champions League and dropping points on the very first day of the Premier League season.

Fast forward to May 19 though, and Conte has added yet another piece of silverware to his and the club’s trophy case with Saturday’s FA Cup victory over Manchester United.

For months it has seemed like a foregone conclusion that Conte would no longer be in charge of the Blues in 2018/19 — which still may be the case — but regardless of what Saturday’s result was there’s no arguing Conte’s prowess as a manager.

It was always going to be a difficult season for Chelsea, having been the reigning PL champions, losing Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic heading into the new campaign and seeing the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool fine-tune their squads to challenge both in the league and European competition.

All things considered, a finish outside the top four isn’t completely unexpected, which isn’t to let Conte and Co. off the hook.

It’s simply a reminder that an FA Cup victory, along with a squad that still possesses a lot of talent, can be the driving force that the Blues need heading into the summer to once again challenge for the PL title again next season.

Whether the club opts to continue its journey with Conte remains to be seen, but Saturday’s performance at Wembley Stadium proved once more that the veteran shot-caller is more-than-capable of guiding the Blues to glory.

There’s no question that heading into next season Chelsea will have to address striker once again, especially if both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud aren’t retained.

There are also questions in the midfield surrounding Tiemoue Bakayoko, who was less than underwhelming in his first season in England.

Defensively, the club has a lot of nice pieces, particularly with Andres Christensen likely to grow into a bigger role in the future, not to mention a number of young defenders on loan like USMNT center back Matt Miazga.

Rumors will likely persist until a public declaration in favor of Conte is made by Chelsea ownership, especially with Luis Enrique and Laurent Blanc just a few names currently available on the managerial front, but there’s a case to be made for what the Italian has done in his short time in charge at Stamford Bridge, and an even bigger one for Conte to be retained ahead of August.