Antonio Conte has indicated his intention to leave Chelsea come the end of the season, according to a report in the Times.
The Italian coach is expected to return to Serie A having grown increasingly frustrated by a lack of support from the Chelsea board.
Conte reportedly considered resignation over the summer, and has refused offers to extend his contract.
But friends of the former Juventus boss have claimed that only a severe financial penalty written into his current contract prevented him walking away from the club.
Conte is believed to have become disillusioned by Chelsea’s transfer activity in the summer, as well as the promotion of youth players and the inaccessibility of Roman Abramovich.
However, the multi-million pound “claw-back” clause, also included in the contract of his predecessor Jose Mourinho, has left Conte with little option but to stay.
If Conte opts to leave Chelsea this summer, Abramovich could turn to one of his former managers, Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian was dismissed by Bayern Munich last week, and is believed to be hopeful of a return to the Premier League.
Conte gave an interview to Italian state broadcaster Radio 1 last week, in which he claimed there was “not a doubt in my mind that I will be home before long”.
He added: “I miss Italy, that’s beyond doubt, so once I have had some important and life-changing experiences, I will be back.”
Conte, who led Chelsea to the Premier League title last season, is out of contract in 2019.