How Michael Emenalo is positioning himself for Chelsea job if Antonio Conte leaves

Football Whispers
Chelsea power players: Michael Emenalo and Antonio Conte
Chelsea power players: Michael Emenalo and Antonio Conte

By Tom Bodell, Football Whispers

Beware the smiling assassin, the proverb goes. It’s advice Chelsea coach Antonio Conte would do well to heed now Michael Emenalo is qualified to coach in the Premier League.

The Blues’ technical director is a close confident of owner Roman Abramovich and a man there has been much suspicion around since he was brought to the club in 2007 by Avram Grant.

Since then 11 men have managed the West Londoners on a full-time or temporary basis.

With increasing pressure on Conte and suggestions the combustible Italian is unhappy at Stamford Bridge, could Emenalo prove to be the smiling assassin? Our friends at Football Whispers investigate.

All is not well at Stamford Bridge. That much is obvious. Star striker Diego Costa is no longer wanted at the club and has been AWOL throughout pre-season; partying in Brazil as he tries to force through a return to Atletico Madrid.

Meanwhile, back at Cobham, Conte’s headache grows by the day. Only three first-team additions have been made but that is nowhere near enough to mount a challenge for the title and go deep in the Champions League.

READ MORE: Exclusive: Antonio Conte’s tensions with Chelsea board increase

And everything came to a head on Saturday as the champions were humbled 3-2 by unfancied Burnley. Oh, and the Italian’s paper-thin squad is now two fewer for the trip to rivals Spurs after red cards for Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.

Conte refused to throw the baby out with the bathwater when he addressed the press at the weekend but the former Juventus coach is clearly far from happy and speculation about his future at Stamford Bridge is on the back pages on a daily basis.

All of which suggests Abramovich could already be flicking through his little black book. Guus Huddink would be the Russian’s go-to man but, at 70, the two-time Chelsea interim boss would be considered a short-term option only.

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte

Abramovich might, therefore, be tempted to promote from within. Emenalo, 51, completed his Pro Licence this summer, meaning he can manage in the Premier League – something which is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by Conte or the owner.

It’s not, more pertinently, something Emenalo would have undertaken if he did not have serious designs on managing in the Premier League.

The Nigerian is known to get on well with Abramovich and his place in Chelsea’s infrastructure means he acts as a conduit between the football staff and the key decision makers such as Marina Granovskaia, who is responsible for transfer negotiations, and the owner.

Emenalo is responsible for delivering targets to Granovskaia and it isn’t hard to imagine Conte, privately at least, won’t have been happy with his work.

The Italian wanted Romelu Lukaku to lead the line for Chelsea. Instead he had to settle for Alvaro Morata.

He also wantsJuventuswing-backAlex Sandro, but Chelsea have bulked at the asking price. And Conte was keen to retain Serbian enforcerNemanja Matic, but the 29-year-old was sold toManchester Unitedinstead.

It is Emenalo’s responsibility to deliver the head coach the tools needed to compete for silverware and for that reason he has a big stake in Conte’s future.

There has been plenty of distrust around the former Nigeria international since he was brought to Stamford Bridge by Grant, having worked with the Israeli at Maccabi Tel Aviv.

But despite his links to Grant, the conspiracy theory was Emenalo had been brought in and planted in the coaching staff as an Abramovich spy.

Speculation was not helped by his breakdown in relationship with Jose Mourinho, which even led to Emenalo tendering his resignation when the Portuguese was re-appointed.

Since then he has risen through the ranks, becoming assistant coach in 2010 before being promoted to his current role of technical director in 2011.

Michael Emenalo with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
Michael Emenalo with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho

But his extra-curricular work appears to suggest he has designs on a management role in the future.

And in many ways he would be the ideal candidate: someone who is close to Abramovich and Granovskaia, who knows the first team, the academy players and the club inside out.

According to Chelsea’s website, his current role means he “supports the work of the first team manager, leading the club’s international and domestic scouting network, and assists in driving the technical programmes of our Academy and international youth network.”

He is embedded in Chelsea at almost every level after ten years with the Blues. At a club which changes its public face so frequently, he is one of the few constants; in the background, operating in the shadows.

It is that which makes Chelsea fans suspicious of him. And it’s why Conte will have to be wary too.

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