Where there’s enough smoke, even during silly season, there may be fire.
While one report is often not enough to make a serious assessment of a given situation, there are multiple reports swirling that suggest Antonio Conte is preparing to walk away from Chelsea just a month after winning the Premier League title.
Two days ago it was reported that Conte was struggling to cope with his inability to communicate directly with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and board member Marina Granovskaia. Now, that may be manifesting itself in the form of direct consequences.
According to one report, Conte has seen his desire to sign 30-year-old Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci blocked by Chelsea executives, with the club brass looking specifically for younger talent, as they have for years. Chelsea has not spent a transfer fee on a player 30 years of age or older since the purchase of Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun in 2010.
While one tabloid report often isn’t enough to prove a scenario true, the potential scuttling of Conte’s approach for one of the world’s best defenders is yet another plume of smoke to show a relationship quickly souring. According to the report a few days ago mentioned earlier, the Chelsea manager has asked for a new contract that would give him more power, from a more final say in transfer dealings to a reshaping of the youth system. That is a heavy ask from an ownership group that has always been as hands-on as any, and has continued to operate based on a very specific model.
Conte has no doubt become familiar with the roller coaster nature of Chelsea’s Premier League existence and hopes to steady the ship into a team that doesn’t just challenge for trophies in short spurts but instead becomes a yearly contender. His dumping of Diego Costa over text message shows how the Italian can make critical decisions in a hurry, but it’s unknown whether he consulted the front office before firing off the fateful electronic communiqué.
Chelsea has yet to sign any players this transfer window, and while there is still plenty of time, a few pieces have already fallen to their final destination, and that will leave not only Chelsea fans feeling anxious, but their manager as well. Could Conte break away from Chelsea in ugly fashion like he did from Juventus in 2013? It’s seeming a more and more likely scenario.