Chelsea go against Antonio Conte’s wishes and begin pre-season training without him

Several high-profile Chelsea stars returned to pre-season training on Saturday, against the reported wishes of incumbent manager Antonio Conte.

Despite facing the sack, The Times claimed earlier this week that Conte had been planning a grueling summer schedule to ensure his squad was ready for the opening day of the new campaign on August 11.

A directive was sent to those players who did not participate in the World Cup requesting that they report for duty today, but Conte is said to have reacted angrily and asked for the start of pre-season training to be delayed until Monday, reminding his staff that he is still their boss.

Chelsea published pictures of Cesc Fabregas, Marcos Alonso and Alvaro Morata among others participating in stretching and running exercises on their official website, but refused to offer any update on Conte’s position, or even clarify if he had attended the session.

Conte is still adamant that he will not walk away from his role at Chelsea despite a complete breakdown in his relationship with the club’s board as he continues to engage in a high-stakes game of chicken.

The Italian coach is keen to take a sabbatical, and his £9m pay-off, but Chelsea cannot axe Conte until they have struck a deal for Maurizio Sarri; the former Napoli boss is already believed to be consulting the club about transfer targets.

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