According to reports in Italy and England, Italy national team manager Antonio Conte is on the verge of of signing with English Premier League outfit Chelsea. He'll be taking over the side Jose Mourinho couldn't pull out of a death spiral earlier this season, but his new job leaves a lot of question marks with his old one -- just what's going to happen to Gli Azzurri with this news, especially with Euro 2016 right around the corner?
One thing we've seen in the past is for a national team manager to sign with a club ahead of a major tournament like the Euros and then stay with their national team until the end of that tournament. While it's easy to assume that Conte will follow that same path, there's a gigantic elephant in the room -- namely, the former Juventus boss' frosty relationship with the FIGC.
Antonio Conte took over the Italy national team after being given numerous promises of support and change in Italian football to make his job better and help him improve the national team. While Conte has done well as the man in charge of the Azzurri, coming out on top of a tough Euro qualification group with a number of strong performances in friendlies as well, those promises appear to have been broken time and again, with no support given to the national team training camp and Italian youth development programs Conte wanted to put into place.
That could easily drive Conte to give the FIGC the middle finger and leave for Chelsea much sooner, which would leave the Italian national team in dire straits, without leadership just months before a massive tournament. Who could the FIGC turn to in order to fill that void? Well, his name is very familiar to Napoli fans: Walter Mazzarri.
The ex-Napoli boss has been unemployed since his contract was terminated by Inter Milan in November of 2014, and while his time in Milan ended ignominiously, he's arguably the highest-profile Italian manager who's currently unattached, and there's plenty of reason to think that his style and tactics would work well on the national team scene. He'd also be able to work with a shorter learning curve as far as adapting the current core of the Italy team from Conte's tactics to his own, something important considering the short timeline he'd be working with.
There's also good reason for Mazzarri to want the job. He's been angling for a job in England for the better part of the last year, but keeps getting passed over, likely thanks to his failure at Inter. Taking the Italy job and finding short-term success at the Euros -- especially in what will be a brutally tough group stage for the Azzurri -- would be a good for for Mazzarri to help improve his ability to achieve his ambitions.
Does all this mean that we'll be seeing Walter pacing and chewing water bottles on the Italy touchline at the Euros in France this summer? No. The odds are still decent to good that Conte stays on, and even if he does leave early Mazzarri isn't the only candidate. But he's a logical one for a lot of reasons, and Italy could do far, far worse than go with him. And you know that a Mazzarri-lead Italy side would be good for a few crazy moments in that tournament.