Chelsea are facing one of their biggest summers of the Roman Abramovich era as Antonio Conte fights to save his reputation before his anticipated departure.
Apart from facing up to the prospect of having to sack and hire yet another head coach, Abramovich and his board must find a new technical director to replace Michael Emenalo who quit last November.
There are also doubts over the futures of as many as nine first-team players, including Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois who may not sign new contracts if Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Sources close to the club expect owner Abramovich will take a hands on role this summer to try to ensure Chelsea do not fall further behind their rivals.
Sunday’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur has left Chelsea eight points behind fourth-placed Spurs and contemplating having to plan for a full Europa League campaign for the first time.
Chelsea hope to convince Hazard and Courtois to sign new deals, but that will be made much more difficult without Champions League football to offer them.
Courtois will have 12 months remaining on his deal at the end of the season and Hazard will have two years left on his contract, with Real Madrid eyeing up a summer bid.
But Courtois and Hazard are not the only two players whose futures are uncertain. Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez, Gary Cahill, David Luiz and January signing Olivier Giroud will only have one year remaining on their contracts, with the club so far unwilling to offer any more than 12-month extensions to players aged 30 or over.
Chelsea will not make any decisions on striker Michy Batshuayi or defender Kurt Zouma, who are on loan at Borussia Dortmund and Stoke City respectively, until the summer when the club’s managerial situation is resolved.
Eden Hazard is one of nine first team players who could refuse to sign new contracts with the club outside Champions League qualification spotsCredit: REUTERS
But neither player wants to return to Chelsea to go back to the substitutes’ bench, leaving the Blues in a difficult position should they want them to boost the squad for a gruelling Europa League campaign.
Conte remains adamant he will not quit in Chelsea and give up a potential A?9m pay-off, which leaves the club having to sack him and risk picking up the full bill if he does not walk straight into another club.
But to land a big new job, Conte still needs to avoid an end-of-season meltdown at Stamford Bridge that would damage his legacy and reputation.
Despite winning the Premier League title last season, potential suitors of Conte are questioning whether his negativity at times, off and on the pitch, has been to blame for this season’s downturn.
Contenders to replace Conte at Chelsea
A good end to the season, even if Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League, without picking any more battles, may help retain his reputation as one of the world’s best coaches.
But more in-fighting during the final weeks of the season will only raise further question marks inside the boardrooms around Europe. Conte will not quit Chelsea to ensure he doesna��t miss out on a A?9million payoutCredit: GETTY IMAGES
Should Abramovich decide to replace Conte, then he is likely to look for a young and dynamic successor. Luis Enrique and Thomas Tuchel are among the available candidates, but there are other young coaches currently in jobs who have impressed the Chelsea hierarchy.
Despite the fact they will have been without a technical director for six months by the end of the season, Chelsea are unlikely to make an appointment before the summer and are yet to decide on the exact nature of the role.
The Blues are still deliberating whether they want a like-for-like replacement for Emenalo, who worked closely with the first-team, or, more likely, somebody who will have a brief to pull all the different departments together.
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (local news)