Chelsea manager Antonio Conte yesterday all but confirmed that Everton midfielder Ross Barkley will move to Stamford Bridge.
The 24-year-old, who has not played this season because of a hamstring injury, underwent a medical test at Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham on Thursday night ahead of a proposed £15 million (S$27 million) transfer.
He is out of contract at the end of the season and new Everton manager Sam Allardyce admitted on Thursday that the Toffees are resigned to losing their homegrown talent, who has rejected offers to extend his stay at Goodison Park.
Chelsea renewed their approach to Everton after seeing a deadline-day move for the player collapse in August, with the deal set to be completed by today.
When Conte was asked about Barkley at his press conference ahead of today’s FA Cup third-round clash at Norwich, he said: “I think if there is news, the club will inform you.
“He has a lot of space for improvement. He’s strong physically and has good technique. He had a bad injury and surgery and had not played for seven months.
“If the player signs, we must have great patience.”
The Italian was not any more forthcoming when addressing questions over his own future.
The 48-year-old woke up to British media reports suggesting Chelsea want Diego Simeone to replace him should he leave at the end of the season.
Conte said: “I think that we are reading a lot of stories about myself this season and, if you remember, after the first game against Burnley, the rumour was that Chelsea was trying to replace me with another coach.
“This is my job and there are a lot of rumours. This season there is a lot of speculation but it is normal.”
There is widespread expectation at Stamford Bridge that Chelsea and Conte will come to a mutual agreement on his exit in the summer. The club have no plans to sack him but there are issues over Chelsea’s transfer policy and management structure.
He signed a new contract at Chelsea last summer but did not extend its length and will have only one year left after this campaign.
The Blues have therefore begun looking at alternatives.
Atletico Madrid coach Simeone was considered before Conte was appointed two years ago.
Having spent seven years at Atletico, Simeone might also consider his own position two years before his contract expires.