Antonio Conte

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Conte set for new Chelsea contract

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Antonio Conte is on the verge of signing a new contract with Chelsea after just one year on the job, according to Sky Sports.

It had been speculated that Conte, 47, was growing in discontent with the Chelsea higher-ups, frustrating by their unwillingness to spend on Juventus center back Leonardo Bonucci amongst others.

The new deal will reportedly make Conte more than $12 million per season.

[ MORE: Man City in for Aubameyang ]

It’s been an offseason of some tumult in what should’ve been a summer of honeymoon vibes between Conte and Chelsea. Diego Costa said Conte dismissed him by text, Inter Milan was linked with pursuit of the manager, and the transfer market controversy only added to perceived issues between the two parties.

Reports: Conte becoming frustrated by Chelsea leadership

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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.

Trouble for champs? Growing tension divides Conte, Chelsea

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There presently exists mutual tension between Antonio Conte and other key members of the Chelsea hierarchy — so much so that his status as the reigning Premier League champions’ manager could come into question — according to a report from Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Monday ]

The key issue between Conte and Chelsea executives is said to stem from Conte’s decision to, and method of communication, offload star striker Diego Costa this summer. Conte reportedly informed Costa of his intentions via text message.

Furthermore, according to the Daily Record, Conte is reportedly seeking a new contract after just one season at Stamford Bridge — one that not only provides increased financial terms, but also gives the 47-year-old Italian greater control and responsibility with regard to the day-to-day operations of the club, from the first team all the way down to the youth academy.

The report claims Conte also seeks a direct line of communication with owner Roman Abramovich, cutting out any and all middlemen within the club’s executive structure.

[ MORE: Everton spend $68 million for two players, in the same day ]

Given that the sourcing from the original report is Italian, one of two things are really going on here: 1) a club back home in Italy is doing anything and everything imaginable to unsettle Conte at Chelsea; or, most likely, 2) Conte’s agent is posturing for that improved deal (financially and in terms of Conte’s power within the Chelsea hierarchy), and has shown Chelsea he’s not at all playing around by planting a story of such consequence.

Diego Costa says he has “to find a way out” of Conte’s Chelsea

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Diego Costa says he’s not wanted by Chelsea, and Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban makes his situation even more difficult.

Costa claims that Antonio Conte informed him that he’s not part of his plans next season, and also says that he cannot wait for Atleti’s ban to be lifted.

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That’s what we call a Grade A predicament, though we imagine there are plenty of suitors in the market for a gigantic striker who scores goals by the dozen.

From The Guardian:

“My relationship with the coach has been bad this season. I suppose I’ve had a bad season so I can’t go on,” Costa said.

“I’m going to be honest, the other day, Conte sent me a message saying he does not count on me for next season, so I’ll have to find a way out.”

The 28-year-old is coming off his second 20-goal Premier League season in three tries, and could take a big pay day at any number of clubs. Costa could even select a team for a season with the understanding that he’d leave for Atleti after the year.

In terms of Premier League clubs, Costa has experience playing for Jose Mourinho though it would be odd for Chelsea to sell him to a title rival (which also rules out an Arsenal side which would relish his presence).

AC Milan has been willing to spend in Italy, and Costa’s game would not be alien in Germany’s Bundesliga. Given the way Zlatan Ibrahimovic dominated Ligue 1, Costa could also spend a year there.

Costa has said he’s not interested in China, so we have a rather hilarious idea for him: Sign for the next four months in MLS, score 30 goals, then take two months off before going to Atleti. Seriously. Ask LA for a percentage of jersey sales. They’d love it.

Michy Batshuayi: “Everyone knows I have to play more”

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The striker who secured Chelsea’s Premier League title could be leaving the club after just one season.

Michy Batshuayi vented his frustration to the press after starting just once in the Premier League, though he did come off the bench 19 times and score five goals, including the game-winner to clinch the title against West Bromwich Albion.

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“No, no, no,” Batshuayi said regarding a question of whether he’d accept another season on the bench. “Everyone knows that I have to play more, that I have to score goals. There’s a World Cup coming up next year. I want to be ready for the World Cup.”

Batshuayi was signed for reportedly more than $42 million in July 2016 from Marseille but found himself second-choice behind Diego Costa in Antonio Conte‘s preferred starting XI. Batshuayi however added he wasn’t going to ask for a transfer.

“I’m not going to ask anything,” Batshuayi said. “I’m going to listen to what they are saying. They are the boss, not me. And afterwards I’ll discuss it with my agent and the club. Amicably, as friends of course.

“A loan? That’s not up to me. That’s up to them (Chelsea). They take the decisions, not me.”

Batshuayi’s future will remain up in the air until Diego Costa and Romelo Lukaku’s future’s get sorted out. If Costa does indeed make a move to China and Lukaku returns to Chelsea, Batshuayi could find himself in the same spot as last season, or he could be even further down the depth chart if Costa remains at the club and Lukaku joins as well.

With Batshuayi looking to earn a place in Roberto Martinez’s 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup, he may have to move in order to get the minutes he needs to prove he’s worthy of a place on the roster. Batshuayi is still getting calls to the national team in the meantime, and scored in a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic on Monday.