Chelsea's Antonio Conte to take preseason training unless he is sacked - sources

Antonio Conte will begin preparing his Chelsea players for the new season at Cobham on Monday unless he is sacked before then, sources have told ESPN FC.

Chelsea's coaching situation remains unclear, with a report in The Times on Thursday claiming Conte replied tersely to an email sent by a member of the club's technical staff informing players not at the World Cup that they are expected at Cobham over the weekend for fitness tests.

Conte's response was reportedly that he remains in charge and does not want the players back until Monday.

Sources told ESPN FC that there is a difference of opinion about the start date of Chelsea's preseason, and insisted that the Italian intends to start working with the squad at Cobham on July 9.

Chelsea plan to replace Conte with Maurizio Sarri and have been in talks to extricate the 59-year-old from his contractual obligation to Napoli for more than a month.

Conte is refusing to walk away from his job unless the final year of his deal -- believed to be worth in the region of £9 million -- is paid in full.

The prolonged uncertainty surrounding Conte and Sarri has had a paralysing effect on Chelsea's transfer plans in a window already complicated by the World Cup and compressed by the Premier League's earlier deadline, set for Aug. 9.

Chelsea have reportedly moved to the front of the queue to sign CSKA Moscow playmaker Aleksandr Golovin for around £27m, with the deal likely to be concluded once Russia's surprise run in the World Cup is over.

They have also been heavily linked with Juventus defender Daniele Rugani, but time is running out to secure the quality signings required to convince Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, who both publicly challenged Chelsea to show ambition in the transfer market this summer, that their long-term futures lie at Stamford Bridge.

Both men are the subject of long-standing interest from Real Madrid, and Courtois has in recent days been vocal of his desire to spend more time with his two children, who live with his former partner in the Spanish capital.

Roma goalkeeper Alisson is reportedly Chelsea's top target if Courtois is sold this summer, but the club also know that they must reinforce their squad rather than simply replace those who leave if they are to get back into the Premier League's top four next season.

Chelsea declined to comment when contacted by ESPN FC.