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 By Ben Gladwell

Chelsea's Antonio Conte still a candidate to return as Italy coach

Alessandro Costacurta has hinted that Antonio Conte remains a candidate for the Italy job, just a week after ruling the Chelsea boss out of the running.

Costacurta has been briefed to find a successor to Gian Piero Ventura, who was sacked following Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup, after being appointed by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) as sub-commissioner of the Italian Football Association (FIGC).

The 51-year-old former AC Milan and Italy defender said just a week ago that Conte, who coached Italy from 2014 through Euro 2016, could not be considered since he still has 18 months left to run on his contract with Chelsea, but he appears to have changed that stance as his search intensifies.

When asked on RAI television if Conte could be considered a candidate, Costacurta replied, "Maybe, we'll see," although he reiterated how hard it is to find a coach who is not already contracted to another club.

"Even [Carlo] Ancelotti is under contract at Bayern [Munich] and he wants to coach a club," Costacurta told Gazzetta dello Sport. "There are also [Claudio] Ranieri and [Roberto] Mancini -- all great coaches. If [Luigi] Di Biagio beats Argentina 4-0 and England 3-0, what do we do then?

"There are many great Italian coaches, five or six of them outstanding. We've not yet had any contact with any coaches, though."

Current under-21s coach Luigi Di Biagio has been placed in charge of Italy's March friendlies with Argentina and England, although Costacurta hopes to have a new full-time appointment made by the time Italy face France in a friendly in June.

The FIGC are currently being controlled by the CONI after elections for a new president to replace Carlo Tavecchio failed at the end of last month. Costacurta therefore said that finding a new coach is not the only priority.

"There's a great deal of work to be done, not just on the sporting side, but also in terms of governance," Costacurta said. "There have been many directors who have come and gone without making a mark.

"The commissioner [Roberto] Fabbricini is starting a job which I hope will be positive. We need to make changes above all at youth level. Our youngsters don't have what is needed to be able to emerge."

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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