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Football | Italy

Antonio Conte © Action Images

Conte urges Juve to beef up ranks



Serie A champions Juventus are wrapping up celebrations for a second straight title and focusing on a marketing campaign set on improving their chances of success in Europe.

Ahead of Sunday's 1-0 win over Palermo, which put the Bianconeri out of the chasers' reach with three games left, coach Antonio Conte hinted that his future at the club depended on the will to make some serious purchases.

"As a man I want to stay, 100 per cent," Conte said last week. "But as a professional I want to have a clear picture to decide (about the future).

"It is a matter of respect toward the fans, the club and myself. We had two extraordinary seasons. Now, however, I need to discuss, calmly, with the club."

A meeting with director general Giuseppe Marotta and president Andrea Agnelli was to take place soon after Wednesday's midweek round - with money matters high in the agenda.

Conte, who retired in 2004 after 13 seasons as Juve midfielder and returned as coach in 2011, is likely to obtain a rise from the current 3 million euros (4 million dollars) to 5 million per season, which would make him the most paid coach in the Serie A.

The 43-year-old also expects money to be spent for two or three top-notch players that should allow Juve to keep dominating the home league and improve on this year's performance in the Champions League.

Juve made it easily the quarterfinals, but were eliminated on a 4-0 aggregate by Bayern Munich, who are now to play an all-German final against Borussia Dortmund.

"The expectations around Juve are growing higher," Marotta said Monday during a Radio Rai show, adding that "Conte wants to stay on," and warning that "it takes time to bridge the gap in Europe."

Marotta noted that Bayern's power has been built over several years and that their budget allowed them the purchase of Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao for 40 million euros, a record transfer fee in the Bundesliga.

Juve, meanwhile, have already secured striker Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao as a free agent and are said to be in negotiations for Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain, who could be available at around 25 million euros.

Other strikers being eyed are maverick Swedish ace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who played at Juve from 2004 to 2006, Liverpool's Uruguayan Luis Suarez, and Stevan Jovetic, although Fiorentina appear unlikely to sell the Montenegrin to the Turin rivals.

Conte seeks new faces also in midfield, where play-maker Andrea Pirlo, who turns 34 on May 19, may enjoy being rested in easier games.

In defence, custodian Gianluigi Buffon is fully reliable at 35, while Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini make up one of Europe's best rear packages, with 20 goals conceded from 35 home league games.

On the selling side, defensive midfielder Stephan Lichtsteiner and the often lacklustre forward Mirko Vucinic may be set to go, but the permanence of the rarely fielded strikers Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella is also in doubt.Author: Alberto Cagliano

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