Barcelona have been linked with a surprise move to snatch a high-profile replacement for departing manager Luis Enrique this summer, with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said to be on their hit-list.
The Express report that the reigning Spanish champions are preparing a shock swoop for the Italian after being impressed with his transformation of the Blues this season.
A combination of Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink took the club to tenth in the Premier League last season, but Conte joined in the summer and set about turning a team in disarray into Premier League champions elect.
An approach for Conte would be something of a surprise, with Athletic Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde the overwhelming favourite to take over from Enrique when he leaves the Nou Camp.
However, even with one of the world’s greatest clubs offering him a job, it’s very unlikely that Conte would snub the Blues after just one season in charge, as he has already denied that he’s not the kind of a boss that would come and leave right after the campaign has closed.
Conte himself has given a strong impression that he is preparing for at least one more season at Stamford Bridge, despite reported interest from Inter in his homeland – with Stefano Pioli’s place in some question at the San Siro.
The Italian said over the weekend about his intentions to improve his Chelsea squad ahead of next season, saying: “We are building. We started to build this season. If we are able to win, it’s a great achievement for us. When you start to build, it’s very difficult to carry on winning. This is a process. No one thought Chelsea could fight to win the title and be in the FA Cup final this season.
He added: “But don’t forget we are building to try and create a good foundation to support not only for the next season, but for many years, and to make sure Chelsea stay always in and fight for the Champions League. To try and win the Champions League and the title.”