Italian chiefs are plotting to lure Antonio Conte back as national boss.
Conte quit after Euro 2016 to take over at Chelsea and is nearly midway through a three-year deal.
But Italy’s faltering qualification for next summer’s World Cup has prompted senior figures within their FA to launch a lobbying campaign to get him to return.
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Current boss Gian Piero Ventura is under huge pressure having only managed to clinch second place in Group G behind Spain.
And the Azzurri face the lottery of a play-off next month to decide their ultimate fate.
The four-time world champs were humbled 3-0 by Spain and only managed a 1-1 home draw with Macedonia in Turin on Friday.
Last night they finished their campaign with an uninspiring 1-0 win in Albania.
Ventura is under contract until 2020, but a poor showing in Russia next summer could bring a premature end to his tenure.
Rumours of splits in the camp have dogged the Italy camp with keeper Gianluigi Buffon forced to deny a series of rifts.
The dressing room was fiercely united under Conte when they only went out on penalties to Germany in the last eight of Euro 2016.
Chelsea are eager to keep Conte and rewarded him with a double-your-money pay rise to around £10million a year for the remaining two seasons of his current contract.
But Conte, 48, saida fortnight ago: “I have nostalgia for Italy. Once I have had some more nice experiences I will return to Italy, for sure. I don’t know when, but the goal is to do that.”