Tuesday 22 August 2017

The political minefield at Chelsea that may inspire Antonio Conte to quit

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

The future of Antonio Conte is again in doubt, amid fresh reports in his native Italy and in England that he is ready to quit as Chelsea manager.

While Conte has made no public comment on his reported grievances with the structure in place at Chelsea and especially a transfer policy run by Sporting Director Michael Emenalo and director Marina Granovskaia, the club’s failure to finalise a move for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku - who looks set to sign for Manchester United - has again cast a cloud over Conte’s immediate future.

Reports from sources close to Conte last month suggested he had presented a list of demands as he looked to assert more control over the football side of the club, yet no Chelsea manager has been given the kind of influence the coach who guided the Blues to the Premier League title last season may want.

Emenalo and Granovskaia are close confidants of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, with Jose Mourinho among the high profile managers who tried and failed to have a bigger impact on the club’s transfer policy during his two spells at the club.

Reclusive Russian Abramovich only has a small inner circle of associates who have his ear, with Emenalo and Granovskaia among the more prominent in that list and as Conte discovered pretty quickly following his arrival at Chelsea last summer, their word tends to be listened to with more clarity that the men sitting in the club’s managerial hot-seat.

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There has been some debate over whether Conte or Emenalo had made Lukaku Chelsea’s top transfer target this summer, but there can be no doubt that his move to United is something of an embarrassment to Stamford Bridge chiefs who had privately expected a deal for the Belgian striker would have been confirmed by now.

Emenalo’s hugely prominent role in Chelsea’s set-up remains something of a mystery, with the Nigerian who had a brief spell with Notts County during his modest playing career admitted he did not sanction the £3m purchase of defender Papy Djilobodji in the 2015 summer transfer window and he failed to play a single Premier League game for Chelsea before making what proved to be an unsuccessful £8m move to Sunderland a year later.

Now Conte is experiencing all the frustrations Mourinho went through and after the club failed to land any of his transfer targets last summer, it remains to be seen whether this single-minded tactician will continue in his post if that trend continues.

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