Chelsea are set to announce the departure of manager Antonio Conte after two years in charge.
The club have refused to comment on the status of the 48-year-old, who won the Premier League title in his first season and the FA Cup in May.
Conte took pre-season training this week but his future has been a source of contention and ex-Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri expected to take over.The Blues have reportedly agreed on a compensation package for Sarri, 59.
Should Sarri be appointed, he would be Chelsea’s ninth full-time manager since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.
During three years with Napoli, Sarri has not won a major honour but has guided the club to finishes of second, third and second again – behind Juventus in 2017-18. The former Empoli manager was named Serie A Coach of the Year in 2016-17.Conte’s future was under scrutiny even as his side beat Manchester United to lift the FA Cup in May but he remained in place and took pre-season training this week with those players not at the World Cup.However, his exit has been anticipated all summer after the Blues missed out on Champions League qualification due to a fifth-place finish in the Premier League.
May’s FA Cup final success means Conte – who managed Juventus from 2011 to 2014 – has won a major trophy in each of his last five seasons as a club manager.
In all it proved a fractious campaign for the west-London club, with Conte outspoken about the congested Christmas fixture list and on times visibly agitated in news conferences when questioned about a public war of words with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
Chelsea ultimately finished 30 points behind Premier League champions Manchester City and exited the Champions League at the last-16 stage after a 4-1 aggregate defeat to Barcelona.
In mid-October, the Blues were beaten by a Crystal Palace side who had gone into the match with no points from seven games, prompting Conte to dismiss rumours of unrest over his training schedule.
After Christmas they suffered back-to-back league defeats twice – first by Bournemouth and Watford, and then against Manchester City and Manchester United – and a run of four-straight wins late in the campaign could not secure a top-four finish.Two months after guiding Chelsea to the Premier League title with a seven-point cushion in 2016-17, Conte signed an improved two-year contract at Stamford Bridge.
But he was warned not to follow the title success with “a Mourinho season” in reference to their slump of 2015-16 when they finished 10th, a year after winning the league under the Portuguese.
The summer of 2017 saw captain John Terry leave Chelsea after 22 years, while Diego Costa was told by text message that he was no longer in Conte’s plans and he eventually completed a protracted move back to Atletico Madrid in January.
The outgoings continued as Chelsea sold Nemanja Matic to rivals Manchester United for £40m.
Although Chelsea strengthened with the arrival of players such as £60m striker Alvaro Morata, they missed out on other targets, including their former striker Romelu Lukaku, who moved to Old Trafford instead.
By January, Conte was answering questions over his future, insisting he was happy and, in early February, he was urging the club to give him a public vote of confidence.
He has reportedly received a compensation payment of around £9m to leave and the club now has less than a month for their new man to make an impact before their Premier League opener away at Huddersfield on 11 August.
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Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took control of Chelsea in June 2003, with Ranieri – the future Leicester manager – already in charge.
Ranieri lasted less than 12 months into Abramovich’s reign, being sacked in May 2004 after almost four years at the club. No manager has lasted that long since.
Chelsea have had eight permanent managers under the Russian’s ownership, in addition to two interim spells for Guus Hiddink and one for Rafa Benitez.
Like a number of his predecessors, Conte has been dismissed the season after winning a major trophy, pointing to silverware being no guarantee of job security at Stamford Bridge.