Antonio Conte ostensibly remains in charge at Chelsea after taking training on Monday, on the first full day of pre-season, despite ongoing uncertainty over his immediate future with the Italian expecting to be sacked and Maurizio Sarri, the former Napoli coach, tied up as his successor.
For Conte, who has 12 months to run on his £9m-a-year contract, it remains business as usual and the Italian returned to Cobham on Saturday, with two days of medical testing, led by his fitness coaches and other backroom staff, taking place before full training commenced this week.
Conte did not oversee the medical tests at the weekend, with his own pre-determined training programme always scheduled to begin this week.
Álvaro Morata was among those to be assessed on his return, with other first-team players not involved at the World Cup in Russia, including Marcos Alonso, Danny Drinkwater, and Ross Barkley also returning for training at the weekend.
On Sunday, Conte’s younger brother, Daniele, posted an image of the club’s coaching staff, on Instagram, with a message that read: “Come on Chelsea Come on Team Conte!!!”.
Sarri has held advanced talks with the Stamford Bridge club over replacing Conte, but the 51-year-old remains contracted to the Serie A club, who have named Carlo Ancelotti as his successor.
Chelsea has been in a state of flux since the end of the season, though with four weeks until the summer transfer window closes, they have made headway with the CSKA Moscow midfielder Aleksandr Golovin, who would cost around £27m.
There is also interest in the Juventus defender Daniele Rugani and Alisson Becker, the Roma goalkeeper, should Thibaut Courtois depart.
Chelsea’s first pre-season game is in Australia, against Perth Glory on 23 July, before matches against Internazionale and Arsenal.
They will contest the Community Shield, against Manchester City, at Wembley after Chelsea lifted the FA Cup in May. Conte won the Premier League in his first full season at the club in 2017, and led Chelsea to a fifth-placed finish last season.
Chelsea FC sign official health insurance partner
Chelsea FC have signed a deal to make insurance firm Vitality their new official health insurance partner.
The agreement will give supporters and Vitality members access to club-themed offers, including official merchandise, tickets and matchday packages at Stamford Bridge.
In return, the Vitality brand will be represented around Stamford Bridge and Chelsea Women’s ground Kingsmeadow.
It will also feature across the club’s digital and social platforms.
Chris Townsend OBE, commercial director at Chelsea, said in a statement on the club’s website: “We are very proud to announce a new partnership with Vitality Health Insurance.
“They are a business we greatly admire and their unique approach to encouraging active behaviours and rewarding customers who live healthier lives is something that sets them apart from the competition.”
He added: “We are thrilled with their commitment to activate the partnership across our women’s team and at a grassroots level and look forward to working together.”
VitalityHealth chief exec Neville Koopowitz commented: “We’re delighted to begin this new partnership with Chelsea FC, which further extends our commitment to helping people live healthier lives through the power of sport.
“Vitality as a business is founded on a desire to encourage people to take positive steps to improve their health, and through collaboration with elite sporting institutions such as Chelsea FC, we believe we can inspire people from many different backgrounds and levels of fitness to make healthier lifestyle choices.”
Speaking further, Mr Koopowitz said the breadth of the tie-up, which includes the Chelsea Women’s and Academy teams, is “particularly exciting” as it supports the firm’s “commitment to raising awareness of and participation in women’s sport, as well as amongst young people, and at grassroots level”.