Antonio Conte returned to Chelsea's Cobham training ground on Saturday as the Blues began their preseason preparations with no resolution in sight to the uncertainty surrounding the club's head coaching situation, sources have told ESPN FC.
The large group of Blues players not involved in the World Cup, including Cesc Fabregas, David Luiz and Alvaro Morata, returned to the club's training base for fitness tests after an extended summer break while Conte made his first appearance since shortly after winning the FA Cup final in May.
Conte was not involved in any of the sessions on Saturday, but sources told ESPN FC that he intends to begin his own preseason programme with the squad on Monday unless he is sacked before then.
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, but the situation remains unresolved.
Conte is refusing to walk away from his job unless Chelsea agree to pay up the final year of his deal -- believed to be worth in the region of £9 million -- in full and compensate his backroom staff.
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 embarked upon this summer in the knowledge that big decisions would have to be made in order to return to contention at the top of the Premier League next season, while key players Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois both publicly challenged the club to show more ambition in the transfer market.
So far no signings have been made, and allowing the uncertainty surrounding their coaching situation to drag on any longer could seriously jeopardise Chelsea's preseason preparations regardless of who is in charge.
Chelsea travel to Western Australia to take on Perth Glory in a friendly on July 23, before participating in the International Champions Cup with fixtures against Inter, Arsenal and Lyon either side of facing Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield on Aug. 5.