In Depth

Chelsea close in on title but can they keep Antonio Conte?

The Italian coach has worked wonders this season, but the champions elect now face competition for his services

Chelsea will be crowned Premier League champions this evening if they beat West Brom at The Hawthorns.

The Blues, who have been top of the table since November, have a seven-point advantage over Spurs in second spot with three games remaining.

 The Chelsea squad will be handed a £5m bonus for winning the league but The Times says that the club may need to free up more money to keep hold of Antonio Conte.

 "The good news for Chelsea is that they could win the Premier League title tonight with two games to spare," writes Alyson Rudd. "The bad news is that they may struggle to keep hold of the man who has engineered an almost serene progression towards glory unless they offer him an improved contract.

"The rich men of Europe have their eyes on Antonio Conte and the Italian media linked him this week with the vacant manager's role at Inter Milan, where the Chinese owners are seeking to buy in the talent to restore the club to greatness. Walter Sabatini has been appointed technical director by the Suning Holdings Group with a remit to entice the Chelsea head coach back to his homeland."

The Italian coach holds all the cards, says Dominic Fifield of The Guardian. "Conte earns significantly less than Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger, managers whose teams he has eclipsed comfortably this season. The scope is there to use Inter's interest as a means of securing far better terms."

What is clear is that Conte has made the difference this season. The best illustration of that is the transformation of Victor Moses, says Matt Dickinson of The Times.

"The blossoming of Moses has been a rebuke to the lazy, wasteful notion entrenched among the elite – and, yes, that has very much included Chelsea – that the answer always lies in hurling yet more money at another import," he says.

His emergence has been an eye-catching lesson in "coaching, resourcefulness [and] adaptability".

What's more Conte runs a tight ship. "Chelsea remains very much Roman Abramovich's club but it is notable how the politics, the intrigue, the conflict has faded into the background. Conte's drive, his seriousness of purpose, dominates the landscape and Chelsea would be advised to keep it that way."

Chelsea have been dominant under the Italian, notes Charlie Eccleshare of the Daily Telegraph

They have the best attack and third-best defence in the league in terms of goals. Their shots to goals ratio is the best in the division in terms of scoring and conceding.

They rarely fall behind and have dropped only nine points from winning positions this season. 

"Given where they were six games into the season – eighth in the table and eight points off the lead, if you were wondering – it is truly astonishing that Chelsea are on the cusp of comfortably winning the title.

 "They have been the best team in the country, though, with Conte creating a well-oiled machine that functions effectively and efficiently, seeing off every challenge that has come their way."

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