Antonio Conte’s public fall-out with Diego Costa has put his future as Chelsea manager in serious doubt.
No firm decision has yet been made but Sportsmail understands senior figures at Stamford Bridge are so unhappy with Conte telling their popular striker by text message he is not wanted that they have discussed the astonishing possibility of sacking the Italian.
Even by Chelsea’s standards it would be an extraordinary move. Owner Roman Abramovich dismissed Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti after successful spells at the club, while Chelsea’s only Champions League win was not enough to keep Roberto Di Matteo in a job.
All three, however, suffered a downturn in results prior to their respective dismissals. Conte has experienced no such decline in fortunes, the Italian earning the affection of the club’s fans not only by turning a team that finished 10th in the previous Premier League campaign into champions but with the passion he displays on the touchline.
His handling of Costa and his apparent unhappiness with the club hierarchy over transfers this summer does, however, amount to a serious error of judgment. Abramovich has made it clear in the past, particularly in the case of Mourinho, that no manager is bigger than the club — and certainly him — and the Russian billionaire has never appreciated having his authority publicly challenged.
The fact is Abramovich, other senior boardroom figures and the players want Costa to stay for their return to the Champions League as well as their bid to retain the title. It leaves Conte isolated when he does not seem to be prepared to back down over Costa, his anger sparked by the 28-year-old’s attempt to force a move to China last January.