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 By Ian Holyman

Nantes would release Claudio Ranieri for Italy job; coach interested

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri has been strongly linked with the Italy job.

Claudio Ranieri could be freed from his job at Nantes if he is offered the post of Italy coach, the French club's president has indicated.

Luigi Di Biagio has been in temporary charge of Italy after Gian Piero Ventura stepped down in the aftermath of failure to qualify for the World Cup.

Ranieri has been consistently linked with the position, which the Italian FA intends to fill on a permanent basis in the summer.

Former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain boss Carlo Ancelotti, ex-Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini -- currently at Zenit St. Petersburg -- and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte are also reportedly in the running.

Ranieri took over at Nantes on a two-year deal last summer, and the former Monaco boss has guided his side to fifth place in the table.

Nantes president Waldemar Kita has previously been reluctant to discuss Ranieri's future but said in January that "there is no question of letting him leave." However, he has now reconsidered his position. 

"If the situation presented itself, I would of course talk about it with him," L'Equipe reported him as saying.

"I would understand in a certain way that he finishes with an opportunity that will not come round twice. To take charge of your country, it's the dream of any coach, and I don't like to hold back anyone's career. We'd have to adapt."

Nantes are the 15th club of Ranieri's coaching career, which has seen him work in five different countries and guide Leicester to a fairytale Premier League title triumph in 2016.

He has already coached a national team, enduring an ill-fated spell in charge of Greece in 2014.

Ranieri told one of his former Chelsea players, Emmanuel Petit, that although he would love to take charge of Italy, nobody from the Italian FA has yet made an approach.

"I think all the French and Italian coaches would like to coach their national team one day, that's normal," the 66-year-old said on RMC.

"But no-one has contacted me about this matter. But if you ask me if I would like to coach the Italy side one day, I would reply: 'Yes.'

"It would be a great source of pride for me. I'm not sending a message because I don't know what is happening right now."

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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