Chelsea boss Antonio Conte set to be axed despite FA Cup win with writing on the wall since last summer

As he spoke after guiding his side to victory over Crystal Palace, the Dutchman insisted he was still standing.

Yet within a couple of days his dismissal was confirmed and United turned to Jose Mourinho.

There will be no shock when Chelsea manager Antonio Conte gets the boot after winning the trophy at Wembley yesterday by beating Mourinho.

It has been a long goodbye for the Italian — one that started last summer.

Conte took four pre-season training sessions in China and knew Chelsea were in trouble.

He could see already where the Premier League champions were heading without serious investment.

Chelsea touched down in the Far East with Diego Costa an outcast, Nemanja Matic on the brink of being sold and John Terry no longer at the club.

FOOTLOOSE Rudiger shows off dance moves after starring in Chelsea's FA Cup win over Man Utd

On top of that, Manchester City were signalling their intent with £100million splurged on full-backs in the transfer window.

Chelsea attempted to buy Kyle Walker from Tottenham but Pep Guardiola sealed the deal.

Conte said: “There are players and there are players. If you want Walker, you know that Walker is expensive. We tried to buy Walker.”

Chelsea were the team that changed the face of the Premier League with owner Roman Abramovich’s cash. They spent big in the mid-noughties and have the trophies to show for it.

But the market changed and suddenly Chelsea were targeting full-backs and getting quoted “striker prices”, as one intermediary pointed out.

Juventus wanted £70million for wing-back Alex Sandro and he remained in Italy while striker Romelu Lukaku, midfielder Radja Nainggolan and defender Kalidou Koulibaly were among other failed Blues targets.

They ended up with Alvaro Morata (£58million), Tiemoue Bakayoko (£40m), Antonio Rudiger (£31m), Davide Zappacosta (£23m) and Danny Drinkwater (£35m).

So Conte saw all this coming before a ball had been kicked in Chelsea’s title defence.

He admitted it is always a “tragedy” when Abramovich’s team fail to win the Premier League.

That is the reality of being in charge at Stamford Bridge, especially when he set the bar so high after just one season in English football.

As the pre-season tour moved to Singapore last year, Conte laid bare how difficult the season would be.

His club were not spending like City or United but were still expected to win the title.

He said: “Every team has to understand what their ambitions are. If their ambitions are to win or fight for the title or try to win the Champions League, you must buy expensive players.

“My question is this: What are Tottenham’s expectations? If they don’t win the title, it’s not a tragedy.

“Maybe for Chelsea, Arsenal, City, United and — I don’t know — Liverpool, it is a tragedy. You must understand this.”

Striker Costa’s absence was his own doing and privately Conte knows he made a mistake when he texted the Spaniard to tell him he was no longer in his plans.

But Matic being granted a move to rivals Manchester United seems puzzling and Terry’s absence has been clear in the past 10 months.

Added to that was Chelsea’s decision to loan out some top talent. Ruben Loftus-Cheek earned himself a place in the England squad for the World Cup on the back of his spell at Crystal Palace.

Tammy Abraham got a call-up too after starting the season in good form for Swansea, while Mason Mount impressed for Vitesse Arnhem in Holland.

Whenever he was asked if he was happy about the loan situation, Conte always replied: “Another question, please.”

Chelsea had barely changed the team throughout the campaign and now they had lost key components.

Branislav Ivanovic, John Obi Mikel and Oscar were sold mid-season during that title triumph.

The Bayern Munich team that Chelsea lost to in Singapore last summer highlighted the task Conte faced this season.

Arjen Robben, Joshua Kimmich, Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara, Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng were all left back in Germany.

Conte finished the conversation at the team hotel by wondering how much his old team-mate Zinedine Zidane would be worth in the current market.

He said: “A lot! I don’t want to give an idea because then clubs will then ask for their players this amount of money.”

Conte knows buying world-class players doesn’t come cheap.

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