Antonio Conte is growing increasingly frustrated at Chelsea and the latest transfer blow raises serious questions about his future at Stamford Bridge.
Conte had set his heart on Romelu Lukaku and saw the Everton striker as the central piece in the jigsaw for next season before Manchester United came in to hijack the transfer.
Chelsea boss Conte was said to be “fuming” at how the deal got away and club officials spent Thursday trying to establish from Lukaku and his advisors whether there was any way back.
But it leaves Conte facing the disastrous prospect of going into the season with his No1 target having gone to one of Chelsea’s main rivals.
Despite some reports in Italy suggesting that Lukaku was not Conte’s first choice, Mirror Sport understands that the Italian was desperate to get him.
Conte had been in regular contact and was making tactical plans for next season with Lukaku in his starting line-up.
Conte has already had a difficult summer and, according to one source, there was genuine concern that the ex-Italy boss could leave last month such was his frustration over Chelsea’s lack of activity in the transfer market.
In fact, Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo went “missing” for four days on an emergency mission to try and resolve the Conte crisis following the fall-out over Diego Costa.
Costa going public on a text exchange with Conte telling him he was no longer in his plans enraged the Chelsea hierarchy and there is no escaping that there is some disquiet on both sides as the club were not happy with the manager’s actions.
Costa is set to rejoin Atletico Madrid – and then be loaned out until January – but the value of his deal has been drastically reduced after the public row and Chelsea’s position in the market has been weakened.
They have struggled to get deals over the line, having seen a move for Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk stall, they have not yet done Alex Sandro from Juventus and Tiemoue Bakayoko’s move from Monaco has dragged on.
Conte is now likely to have to go back for Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and Chelsea will also look at Swansea’s Fernando Llorente. Torino’s Andrea Belotti is another option.
Chelsea will also discuss making a move for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, but are well aware that their London rivals do not want to sell to another Premier League club, having publicly insisted they will not sell to Manchester City.
It leaves Conte and Chelsea facing a crisis before the start of the season.
Chelsea’s ability to turn success into a shambles has returned to haunt them again with the much talked about new contract for Conte remaining rather ominously unsigned.