Chelsea are carefully watching Antonio Conte’s next move with the Italian’s compensation bill yet to be agreed and uncertainty hanging over the managerial positions at three of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Conte has already been linked to both the Manchester United and Real Madrid jobs, while he is also a potential target for Bayern Munich following the German club’s poor start to the season.
Chelsea sacked Conte three months ago, but are yet to reach an agreement with their former head coach over his severance.
Under the terms of the final year of his contract, the 49-year-old would be due over £9 million but Chelsea have tried to argue that he contributed to his own dismissal and are reluctant to agree to a full pay-out.
The matter could go to court if both sides refuse to back down, but the impasse may also be impacted by whether or not United see Conte as a potential mid-season successor to under-pressure Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho’s job was saved by United’s second-half fightback against Newcastle United, but the Portuguese wants public backing from the club’s owners and must take his team to Chelsea after the international break.
Under the terms of his Chelsea deal, Conte would forgo any compensation owed to him from the time he took over at another English club but that is not thought to apply if he goes overseas.
That means taking the United job before the New Year could cost Conte at least £5m, but he would be able to take over at Real or Bayern and still negotiate a Chelsea pay-off.
Zinedine Zidane had been the favourite to take over at United if Mourinho is sacked, but the Frenchman’s agent Alain Migliaccio has attempted to distance his client from the role.
Sources in Germany have also claimed Zidane would be high on Bayern’s list of targets if they choose to fire Niko Kovac, following a disastrous start to the Bundesliga season that has seen them stop for the international break in sixth place.
United’s options to replace Mourinho before the end of the season would be limited, as Tottenham Hotspur are confident Mauricio Pochettino would not leave mid-campaign.
Conte is in the rare position of being a top-class manager who is currently out of work, although the nature of his fall-out at Chelsea would be a concern to United.
His record of winning the Premier League title and FA Cup during two seasons at Chelsea, and the fact he got the best out of Paul Pogba at Juventus, would however be of interest.
Conte has kept a low profile since leaving Chelsea and it is unclear what his managerial intentions are, but he will soon be in demand. Spanish reports have claimed he will be considered by Real Madrid if the European champions decide to sack Julen Lopetegui.
Conte turned down an approach from Real during the summer because he was still contracted to Chelsea and had not been sacked at the time.
But Real have completed a dismal run of four games without a victory, during which time they have not scored a goal, and Lopetegui’s job could well be on the line when they meet Barcelona on October 28