The lengthy offseason limbo of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte appears to be nearing a resolution, as the BBC is reporting that an official announcement on Conte’s departure from the club is imminent. This tweet from Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fàbregas appears to give it away, too.
If Fàbregas seems a little eager to send off his old boss, it might be because that tweet could have been in his drafts for over a month. Conte’s exit, coming after Chelsea’s training camp has already started, unsurprisingly ends a two-year run for the Italian, who leaves as both another Chelsea disappointment and also the most successful manager by winning percentage in the club’s history.
In his first season, Conte picked up the pieces of Jose Mourhino’s second stint with the club, guiding Chelsea from 10th place in 2016 to the Premier League title in 2017. But in the same manner of his predecessor, Conte appeared to wear on his players quickly, and either picked fights or generally failed to motivate them. Most notably, Conte decided to freeze out top striker Diego Costa following his championship season, to the point where Costa was stuck talking shit while watching the beginning of his team’s season from Brazil.
Despite massively expensive summer 2017 transfers that included Álvaro Morata, Tiémoué Bakayoko, and—for some reason—Danny Drinkwater, Chelsea could only manage 5th in the 2017-18 Premier League, missing out on Champions League qualification and dooming Conte to another, probably more stable gig. The problem is, Chelsea hasn’t even been able to handle the transition of power with any kind of competence or speed. The club was reportedly stuck in a lengthy dispute with Conte, who wouldn’t resign and wanted the full payout of his contract, while also struggling to extricate desired replacement Maurizio Sarri from his current job with Napoli. All this disarray led to a ridiculous situation where Conte still prepped an entire preseason training plan with the full expectation he was going to be replaced.
But now, even assuming the Sarri hire goes through as early as this week, Chelsea have precious little time to implement any dramatically different vision ahead of the Premier League’s transfer deadline of August 9. The club has exactly zero confirmed transfers so far this offseason, a late-arriving manager, and a squad of fickle, unpredictable egos, which means this Chelsea season is already shaping up to be a big hot mess. At least we’re all used to that by now.