Premier League • England

Antonio Conte accepts high-profile return to management and targets Chelsea forward immediately

Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku

Antonio Conte could have some big plans when he gets back in management

Antonio Conte could officially secure his first job back in management since leaving Tottenham Hotspur over a year ago within the coming week – and a reunion with a Chelsea star is already on his agenda.

Conte last managed Tottenham until March 2023, before they went their separate ways by mutual consent. One of the most successful managers currently out of work, he now seems ready to return to a touchline.

The club he is expected to join next is Napoli, who have (according to reports in Italy) reached a general agreement with Conte.

Napoli won Serie A last season, but immediately lost the services of head coach Luciano Spalletti. It has been a turbulent title defence, with three managers having spells in charge.

Francesco Calzona is only under contract with Napoli until the end of the season and remains in charge of the Slovakia national team too, so is set to resume those duties while vacating his role at club level.

Napoli have managed to convince Conte to accept their project. Ever the demanding manager when it comes to the transfer market, clues are already emerging about Conte’s potential wish list.

According to Italian football agent Gigi Iacomini, who claims to have spoken with Conte’s right-hand man – and former Tottenham interim coach – Cristian Stellini, the incoming Napoli boss will want a centre-back, full-back, midfielder and striker adding to his squad.

The latter is in the case of Victor Osimhen leaving the club. TEAMtalk has recently explained that the Nigeria international is still hopeful of a move to Chelsea.

Conte could sign Chelsea striker

To fill the void that would be left by Osimhen, Conte could encourage Napoli to raid Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku, who is currently on loan elsewhere in Serie A with Roma.

Lukaku scored 21 goals in 47 appearances for Roma, but is likely beyond their price range for a permanent deal. Chelsea have no room for him in their plans as things stand, even though the identity of their own next manager is still up for debate after the departure of Mauricio Pochettino.

Therefore, Napoli could become an alternative route for Lukaku. The fact they could raise staggering amounts of cash by selling Osimhen could help them afford the Belgian.

However, he is not the only option on their shortlist for the centre-forward vacancy. According to Iacomini, Conte would also consider Bologna’s Joshua Zirkzee or Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface – the latter already a teammate of Osimhen’s at international level.

It ought to be remembered, though, that Conte and Lukaku have previous. They worked together at Inter in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, winning the Scudetto together in the latter.

Romelu Lukaku scored 64 goals for Antonio Conte

Lukaku scored 64 goals across those two seasons, which ultimately earned him his club-record return to Chelsea. Things did not work out for Lukaku back at Stamford Bridge, nor even when he headed back to Inter (post-Conte) on loan, while his fortunes in Rome have been up and down.

Perhaps a reunion with Conte could get the best out of the 31-year-old again.

Chelsea have Lukaku under contract until 2026, but decided when loaning him out to Roma last summer that they would accept bids of £37m for him this year. It remains to be seen if they will be able to fetch that fee from Napoli or any other remaining admirers.

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