ROME, Italy, Apr 28 – Claudio Ranieri admitted he would be “super happy” if Antonio Conte succeeded him as Roma coach after he took the club into the Serie A top four with a thumping win over Cagliari on Saturday.
Asked by Sky Sport following his side’s 3-0 win at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico whether he would like Conte to take over from him at the end of the season, Ranieri replied: “Yes, I’d want him.”
Speculation has intensified that Roma are making a serious bid to bring in former Juventus, Chelsea and Italy manager Conte as successor to Ranieri, who came in as interim manager following the sacking of Eusebio Di Francesco in March.
Italian media reports that Roma have lined up a three-year contract worth 9.5 million euros ($10.6 million) a season to tempt him to the capital.
But when pressed on whether he knew anything of Roma’s approach, fellow former Chelsea boss Ranieri said: “I’m the last one to know these things… if Antonio comes I’ll be super happy.”
Before the match club legend Francesco Totti, now a director, said that “any club would go mad” for Conte, but refused to say whether they had spoken to the 49-year-old, who won the first three of Juventus’ eight straight Serie A titles and the Premier League and FA Cup with Chelsea.
“Conte is one of Europe’s best coaches… with a coach like him you have a project that has a better chance of being a winning one,” he was quoted as saying by Italian media.
“However we have Ranieri on the bench and we need to respect him until the end. Right now it’s not appropriate to talk about other coaches.”
Despite a wildly inconsistent season Roma occupy the final Champions League spot, two points ahead of AC Milan.
– Ronaldo on target –
They are just four behind third-placed Inter Milan, who drew 1-1 with newly-crowned champions Juventus in the Derby d’Italia in Saturday’s late game.
Radja Nainggolan gave Inter a sixth-minute lead with a rocket of a volley against a Juventus team missing the likes of Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira.
But Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the match at the San Siro just after the hour mark when Miralem Pjanic’s cheeky back-heel allowed the Portuguese star to hit home a low left-foot shot for his 20th Serie A goal of the season.
Earlier, Roma struck a blow in the tight battle for Champions League football next season.
Javier Pastore’s first league goal since September and a Federico Fazio header had the hosts two goals ahead within eight minutes of kick-off and Aleksandar Kolarov rammed home a late third to put Roma five games without defeat.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, who will have the chance to win just their second-ever major trophy when they take on Lazio in next month’s Coppa Italia final, can move back above Roma when they host strugglers Udinese on Monday.
On Sunday, Milan travel to Torino in a match that could end the surprise top-four challenge from Walter Mazzarri’s tough-to-beat side, and Lazio take on Sampdoria and Serie A top scorer Fabio Quagliarella.
Earlier on Saturday, Bologna dealt a huge blow to lowly Empoli’s survival chances when three second-half goals from Roberto Soriano, Riccardo Orsolini and Nicola Sansone saw them come from behind to win 3-1.
Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Bologna move up to 14th on 37 points after an impressive run of six wins in their last eight matches that has pulled them eight points clear of Empoli and the relegation zone.