Jorge Sampaoli has claimed he was Chelsea’s first choice to replace Jose Mourinho as manager, before his lack of English turned attention to Antonio Conte.
Reports in Italy have suggested Conte could be confirmed as Chelsea’s next full-time manager in the coming days, with Guus Hiddink in charge until the end of the season after Mourinho paid the price for a woeful Premier League title defence.
Sampaoli was a nominee for the 2015 FIFA World Coach of the Year after leading Chile to Copa America glory last year, although he quit the national job in January after a disagreement with the country’s football association.
And the Argentine has now revealed how close he came to taking over at Stamford Bridge.
“I had a meeting with Chelsea’s owner [Roman Abramovich] and he told me that I was the first option,” he told Argentine radio station Vorterix.
“I was about to be their new coach, but then Conte appeared and it became a competition between us. It was him or me.
“I needed some time in order to improve my English but this kind of club doesn’t give you that time.”