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Real Madrid target Antonio Conte — report

Chelsea would welcome the financial relief

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

It’s a glorious day for Chelsea’s bookkeepers.

Marca, essentially a Real Madrid-mouthpiece, are claiming today that Antonio Conte is the “new front-runner” for the vacancy at the club, following Zinedine Zidane’s surprise resignation a couple weeks ago. Mauricio Pochettino was the previous top candidate, but he’s apparently staying at Spurs.

Chelsea had been hoping to be able to sack Conte on the cheap — and if one of the most successful coaches in Chelsea history can find a new job straight away, Chelsea could avoid having to pay his guaranteed salary for another year and perhaps Real Madrid will take care of any additional severance payments that may be involved (estimates for the sacking range from £9m to €20m).

Any savings on Conte could then be used to help speed along Maurizio Sarri’s messi disentanglement at Napoli. That’s the narrative of the financial dominoes in any case.

This is exactly what the Blues had been hoping for. As other club jobs filled up, especially PSG (who could afford him and his transfer demands), it had become increasingly unlikely that parsimonious Chelsea could escape paying-off Conte and his staff. Then came Zidane’s unexpected resignation.

Penny Pinching Pensioners we may not yet be — the club did spend close to £200m in the last year — but Chelsea are no longer apex predators like at the start of the Roman Abramovich era. Nowhere has this been more obvious than in the club’s reluctance to sack Antonio Conte (which they’ve deemed necessary) and eat the £9m that he’s due as per his contract, or to spend the £7m to exercise Maurizio Sarri’s release clause. We may be still okay to waste that sort of money on half-a-Danny Drinkwater, but that’s a discussion for another day.

So, instead, we’re waiting for someone or multiple someones to rescue us. In Italy, we hope Sarri can extricate himself from his contract with Napoli all on his own. And with Conte we keep hoping that a knight in shining armor shows up hire him away. How about a knight in Los Blancos armor?

Assuming Marca are working off of inside information rather than simply pushing their own narrative (which also happens), the apparent logjam that has been holding back Chelsea’s offseason moves could thus be cleared. Drill sergeant Conte’s rigid tactician-style may not be a most obvious fit for a team of staunchly individualistic galactic-sized egos, but Florentino Perez also hired similarly tuned Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez in the not-too-distant past, so it cannot be ruled out based on ideology alone. Coaches don’t last that long at any team these days anyway.

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