Football: Trouble for Conte in the boardroom and dressing room

Chelsea coach Antonio Conte celebrating Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester United with Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chelsea coach Antonio Conte celebrating Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester United with Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The political manoeuvrings behind the scenes at Chelsea have taken another twist after Michael Emenalo chose to end his 10-year association with the Premier League champions by tendering his resignation as the club's technical director.

Emenalo, who joined the club as an opposition scout under Avram Grant before rising up the hierarchy to become a member of the club's board, was one of Roman Abramovich's most trusted lieutenants at Stamford Bridge, with his decision to quit a blow to the owner.

Some of his signings for the Blues include Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. However, the club endured a difficult summer transfer window, failing to land their former forward Lukaku, Alex Sandro, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ross Barkley. The mooted power struggle behind the scenes, apparently born of differences of opinion over recruitment between Conte and the influential director Marina Granovskaia, took its toll.

Things are little better in the dressing room. Conte has fallen out with several of his players this season. Defender David Luiz, 30, was dropped for Sunday's match against United as punishment for querying the Italian's tactics.

The former Paris Saint-Germain star, one of the key players in Chelsea's title triumph last term, was banished from training by the coach on Friday after an exchange between them the previous day, which Luiz maintains was a misunderstanding.

Conte later cast doubt on Luiz's future, saying: "He has to work really hard with the others, otherwise he will stay on the bench or in the stands."

Next to Luiz in the stands at Stamford Bridge was Kenedy, his Brazilian compatriot, who was also dropped from the squad after angering Conte by yawning during the team meeting after the mid-week Champions League loss to Roma.

Luiz is the third star whom Conte has clashed with at Chelsea, with Diego Costa dropped last season for disciplinary reasons and then ostracised, and Nemanja Matic made to train with the Under-23s before leaving for United this summer.

Conte exchanged a lukewarm handshake with Jose Mourinho before Sunday's game but after the game, he seemed to ignore the United manager.

"Shaking the hands two times is enough," he said. "It's not important. It's important to win the game. You have to have the respect on the pitch not outside the pitch."

Mourinho said: "You want me to go and chase him in the middle of the pitch? I was there. I shook hands with the people who were there... I did my duty."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Trouble for Conte in the boardroom and dressing room'. Subscribe