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  • Maurizio Sarri wants to leave Napoli and Serie A at the end of the current season
  • Chelsea are keen for the Italian to replace Antonio Conte, who is under pressure
  • Napoli, who sit second in the table, have already started to look for a new boss 
  • Conte is expected to leave following a disappointing season on and off the pitch 

Joe Strange for MailOnline

Chelsea have stepped up their interest in Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri after he made it clear that he wants to leave Italy at the end of the season.

The 59-year-old had emerged as a contender for the Stamford Bridge hotseat, but he is now Roman Abramovich’s No 1 choice to replace Antonio Conte.

Conte, who won the Premier League title in his debut season, is expected to leave the west London club following a disappointing campaign which has been overshadowed by public rows with the board and disagreements with players. 

Chelsea have made Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri their No 1 choice to replace Antonio Conte

Conte, pictured in training at Cobham on Wednesday, is expected to leave Chelsea next month

Conte, pictured in training at Cobham on Wednesday, is expected to leave Chelsea next month

Conte, pictured in training at Cobham on Wednesday, is expected to leave Chelsea next month

The Blues have considered a number of big names for the job including former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and ex-Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel.

But Sarri, who has managed only in Italy, is now in pole position after he indicated his wish to leave Serie A at the end of the season in search of a fresh challenge.

Napoli are already on the lookout for someone to replace Sarri, who they expect to join Chelsea ahead of the new season.

Chelsea still face paying off the last year of Conte’s £9million-a-year contract, while Sarri’s release clause stands at £7m. It remains to be seen if Napoli will budge on that figure, or even allow him to move on for nothing. 

Sarri has helped Napoli mount a title challenge this season, although they are currently second

Sarri has helped Napoli mount a title challenge this season, although they are currently second

Sarri has helped Napoli mount a title challenge this season, although they are currently second

A major issue for Chelsea is that their summer transfer plans have been threatened by the uncertainty over who their next manager will be.

Club officials have held informal discussions over a host of potential signings ahead of the transfer window.

However, it is understood a number of the club’s primary targets are showing a reluctance to commit to Chelsea until they know who will be in charge. 

The Blues are currently fifth in the Premier League, eight points behind fourth-placed rivals Tottenham with a game in hand as they chase a Champions League spot.

Chelsea have endured a difficult second season under Conte and sit fifth in the Premier League

Chelsea have endured a difficult second season under Conte and sit fifth in the Premier League

Chelsea have endured a difficult second season under Conte and sit fifth in the Premier League

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–Credit: Sport | Mail Online