Reports from Italy claim Antonio Conte was ahead of Zinedine Zidane when Florentino Perez looked to replace Rafa Benitez.
Benitez was sacked in early January and Zidane moved from the Castilla bench to replace him, but Sport cites the Gazzetta dello Sport as saying national team trainer Conte was Perez’s pick before the Frenchman.
Conte, now heavily linked with Chelsea, rejected the approach as he wants to take the Azzurri to Euro 2016 and was only interested in replacing Benitez in the summer.
Perez is also said to have seriously considered the Jose Mourinho option, the Portuguese having left Chelsea shortly before Benitez was dismissed.
It’s said though that Mourinho wasn’t as keen as was reported on returning to Madrid, after leaving Santiago Bernabeu on bad terms with many of the players still in the squad.
And only when Conte said he wouldn’t take over in the winter did Perez turn to Zidane, the story goes.
Conte’s option isn’t dead either, it’s noted, as he could be approached again this summer if Zidane’s tenure doesn’t go well and he hasn’t committed to Chelsea.