Antonio Conte has been a dead man walking at Chelsea for a very long time.
Despite winning the FA Cup, the Blues’ season was defined by their failure to make the top four, as they ultimately slumped to fifth place with a shock 3-0 defeat to Newcastle on the final day of the season.
The Italian happily called out the board in press conferences – not once, but several times – for refusing to sign the players he wanted and for replacing Nemanja Matic with the likes of Tiemoue Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater.
The 2016/17 title win, when Conte was hailed as a tactical genius for his reintroduction of 3-4-3 into the English game, now seems a distant memory.
It should only be a matter of time before he is replaced at the helm, but the question is why Roman Abramovich, normally so ruthlessly ready to wield the axe, has been delaying the inevitable.
The Telegraph report that the only thing keeping the former Juventus and Italy manager in a job is the fact that if he were sacked now, he would be entitled to a £9million payout.
That’s where the vacancy at Real Madrid comes into play. Chelsea are hopeful that Conte will be the man to replace Zinedine Zidane as should he get a new job straight away, he would no longer receive the compensation package.
COULD IT REALLY HAPPEN?
Wishful thinking, it may seem, but it can’t be ruled out that this is exactly how it will unfold. Mauricio Pochettino looks set to stay at Tottenham, Max Allegri wants to remain with Juventus, and Arsene Wenger sounds hesitant about leaping straight back into management weeks after leaving Arsenal.
Previously, Chelsea had hoped their head coach would take any one of the Italy, Napoli, or PSG jobs, but they were filled by Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti, and Thomas Tuchel respectively.
All in all, it seems there is no way he is going to salvage his career in west London – if he even wants to – but that his own club are praying for the European champions to make an approach.
Anyone who watched Chelsea at various points this season would have already surmised that some of the dressing room were no longer behind their manager, but it’s claimed that David Luiz, in particular, has a massive problem with him, per the same source.
The Brazilian is reportedly adamant that Laurent Blanc should get the job, as he played under him at Paris Saint-Germain.
Alternatively, Maurizio Sarri is another option, but he is stuck in a contract stand-off with Napoli. The Serie A club technically have two managers right now as the 59-year-old never officially left.
What a monumental mess. Chelsea ultimately need to shift Conte sooner rather than later if they are to focus properly on what is going to be a huge summer for the club.