x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Antonio Conte 'fuming' as Chelsea face striker crisis

With Diego Costa heading for the exit and Romelu Lukaku bound for Manchester United, the Chelsea manager is reportedly a very unhappy man.

Antonio Conte is in the market for a new striker after telling Diego Costa he can leave. His top target, Romelu Lukaku, is set to join Manchester United. Andrew Yates / Reuters
Antonio Conte is in the market for a new striker after telling Diego Costa he can leave. His top target, Romelu Lukaku, is set to join Manchester United. Andrew Yates / Reuters

Premier League champions Chelsea are facing a striker crisis, according to reports in the British media, with current lead forward Diego Costa having said his goodbyes to his teammates and top target Romelu Lukaku seemingly on his way to rivals Manchester United.

Costa, 28, was integral to Chelsea's title-winning campaign last season with 20 league goals, but the Spain international revealed last month that manager Antonio Conte had told him by text message he was no longer part of his plans.

Conte's decision to dispense with Costa was thought to be largely based on the Italian's confidence in Chelsea's ability to re-sign Lukaku, who left Stamford Bridge for Everton in a £28 million (Dh133.3m) deal in 2014.

However, it was widely reported on Thursday that Everton had accepted a £75m bid for Lukaku from United. According to The Guardian, the Belgian striker was set to have his medical in Los Angeles on Thursday night after agreeing a £250,000 a week contract. United are confident of completing the deal before their pre-season tour of the United States begins on Sunday.

Chelsea are expected to launch a last-minute bid to try and persuade Lukaku, 24, to return, and are reportedly hoping that the striker's initial preference to return to Stamford Bridge will work in their favour.

Should Chelsea miss out on Lukaku, Conte is expected to turn his attentions back to Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, who Chelsea attempted to sign last summer, Swansea City's Fernando Llorente, and Torino striker Andrea Belotti.

According to the Daily Mirror, Conte has been left "fuming" by Chelsea's lack of activity in the transfer market and the prospect of missing out on his No 1 target is set to throw the Italian's future into further doubt.

Having masterminded Chelsea's title triumph last season, Conte was offered a new £9m a year salary, which would make him the club's highest ever paid manager. That contract remains unsigned, and the slow developments in attempting to tie up deals for Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and Juventus wing-back Alex Sandro have contributed to Conte's frustrations.

With the new Premier League season just five weeks away, Conte is facing the prospect of starting Chelsea's title defence with one recognised senior striker in Michy Batshuayi.