Chelsea move to clarify fresh reports that boss Antonio Conte is about to quit
Chelsea have responded to a fresh round of rumours suggesting manager Antonio Conte is about to resign, with former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel rumoured to be lined up as his replacement.
The football grapevine has been buzzing with claims that Conte was about to quit after just one season in charge at Chelsea, with sources close to the Italian in his homeland fuelling the rumours.
Despite leading the club to a dominant Premier League title win, there have been rumours for several months that Conte may consider his position at the end of the season.
He has yet to sign a new contract and is believed to be keen to assert more control over the club's recruitment policy, with the odds on him leaving Chelsea tumbling last on Thursday afternoon.
There are suggestions that Chelsea chiefs are keen to keep striker Diego Costa this summer, even though Conte has made it clear he wants to off-load the troublesome Spaniard ahead of the new season.
Conte is also reported to have demanded more contact with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, as well as a bigger say in transfer plans and bigger control over the club's academy, that has failed to produce regular first team stars over the last 15 years.
Chelsea managers who have made similar demands in recent years have not lasted long in the job, with Tuchel's strong links to Chelsea adding to the suspicion that a change was imminent at Chelsea.
However, Blues insiders have insisted they are confident Conte will remain in place for a second season at Stamford Bridge, even though the details that have appeared in the media in recent days suggest there are disputes raging behind the scenes.
Conte was offered a chance to take over as Inter Milan manager earlier this year and opted to stay at Chelsea, despite admitting in public that his first year in London has been a struggle without his family by his side.
There was an expectation that Conte's wife and daughter would move with him to London this summer, but this latest round of rumours suggest Chelsea are still battling to keep their inspirational coach.
Tuchel was keen to distance himself from links with the managerial vacancy at Southampton earlier this week, with the German certain to be a leading contender if Chelsea are forced to make an unwanted change at the top in the coming days or weeks.
This may be a story lacking any firm comments from either side at this point, but it appears the debate over Conte's future at Chelsea is only just beginning.