LONDON • Antonio Conte is at loggerheads with Chelsea's board over the club's transfer policy despite his side's 10-point lead at the top of the English Premier League table.
The Chelsea manager will demand a greater control of transfers - which are managed by director Marina Granovskaia and technical director Michael Emenalo - and insist on assembling a much bigger squad next season before signing the new contract that the club want to give him in the summer.
Chelsea have signed only four players since Conte was appointed 12 months ago, and only one of those, N'Golo Kante, was specifically requested by the manager, a point he is understood to have made forcibly in recent discussions with the club about transfer plans for next season.
The Italian is understood to have complained that Chelsea sold three experienced first-team players during the January transfer window in Oscar, Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel without recruiting any replacements.
He has been astonished at his employers' reply that they had been replaced by three returning loanees - Nathan Ake, 22, Kenedy, 21, and Charly Musonda, 20.
Ake, who was on loan with Bournemouth, and Kenedy, who was with Watford, have made a total of three FA Cup appearances for Chelsea this season.
Number of players that Antonio Conte wanted who were eventually signed by Chelsea since the Italian became manager.
Musonda has never played for the club, having spent the first half of the campaign on loan at the Spanish side Real Betis.
Conte does not regard any of that trio as first-team players and is frustrated at what he perceives to be a lack of financial backing from the club, particularly compared to the transfer outlay of both Manchester clubs last summer.
The 47-year-old has been forced to rely on a core group of 13 players and has expressed concerns that despite their domestic dominance, the existing squad will not be strong enough to compete on all fronts when they return to the Champions League next season.
He wants to sign at least four players this summer, including a right wing-back, a centre-back, a central midfielder and a striker.
He will demand that substantive progress is made in those transfer negotiations before signing a new contract.
Conte's existing deal has two years to run, but Chelsea want to tie him down for longer after his excellent start at Stamford Bridge in transforming a team that finished 10th last season into runaway leaders.
THE TIMES, LONDON