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Chelsea have made a formal approach to Leicester City about manager Enzo Maresca, per The Athletic, who now becomes the leading candidate to succeed Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge a week after his surprise exit.

The Blues are asking permission from Leicester to speak to Maresca about the managerial vacancy and reportedly hope to reach a deal by the end of the week, though that will depend on the two clubs agreeing a compensation fee, since Maresca is under contract at Leicester until 2026. The process to find Pochettino’s replacement is being led by co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley, who were also responsible for parting ways the Argentine last month.

Pochettino’s lone season at Chelsea was turbulent at times, with uneven performances, some poor results and injuries to several key players. The former Tottenham Hotspur manager, though, was able to steady the ship about midway through the season and led them to a sixth place finish, offering some optimism about the progress they could make next season. He left the club by mutual consent, though, which means Chelsea’s new leadership group are once again looking for a manager just two years after acquiring the club.

Maresca emerged as a serious contender for the Chelsea job after leading Leiceter to a first-place finish in the Championship and securing promotion to the Premier League in his first season in the job. He prefers a possession-based, attack-minded style of play that led the Foxes to score 89 goals in the league, second only to second place Ipswich Town.

That was the 44-year-old’s first full season in charge of a team, with his only managerial stint was a six-month spell in charge of Parma in 2021. Maresca was an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City in between and was part of their treble-winning 2022-23 season and also was previously a youth coach at the club.

The Italian is set to beat the likes of Brentford’s Thomas Frank and Ipswich’s Kieran McKenna for the gig as Chelsea focus their efforts on an up-and-coming manager rather than one with experience at the top levels of the game.

McKenna was perhaps the leading contender as soon as Pochettino’s departure was confirmed, his stock high after leading Ipswich to back-to-back promotions and a spot in next season’s Premier League. He was also linked to vacancies at Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester United, but will reportedly sign a new long-term deal at Ipswich, per The Athletic.

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