Michael Emenalo has resigned from his position as Chelsea technical director, the club has confirmed.
The 52-year-old, one of owner Roman Abramovich’s most trusted advisors, has left Chelsea after 10 years working across the scouting and technical departments amid reports of tensions between head coach Antonio Conte and the club’s hierarchy.
In a statement on Chelsea’s official website, Emenalo said: “This has been a very difficult decision to make, but one I believe is right for both myself and my family, and the club.
“I have had the privilege to work alongside some of the most talented people in the world of sport over the past 10 years, and I will depart incredibly proud of the achievements we have made. I wish Chelsea every success and look forward to following the club’s future triumphs from afar.”
Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday with Emenalo in attendance, but the main talking point from the match was Conte’s bold decision to drop David Luiz — an Abramovich favourite and key member of last season’s Premier League title-winning team — from his match day squad.
After the match Conte insisted leaving out Luiz was a “tactical decision,” but numerous reports have suggested the Brazilian’s omission followed a clash with his head coach during the inquest into Chelsea’s humiliating 3-0 away defeat against Roma in the Champions League.
Conte’s own future has been the subject of intense speculation since last summer amid reports that the Italian had grown frustrated with the inaccessibility of Abramovich and Chelsea’s recruitment policy, spearheaded by chief executive Marina Granovskaia and Emenalo.
Of Emenalo’s departure, Conte said: “I am very sorry to see Michael leave Chelsea, and I would like to thank him for all his help and support since I arrived at this club. I have enjoyed working with him very much, we celebrated a Premier League title together in May, and I wish him the very best for the future.”
Granovskaia added: “We will now be reviewing our management structure, and Michael will be a part of that process as we look ahead.”
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “It is with regret that the owner and board of directors accepted Michael’s resignation this week. He has had a tremendous impact on the club over the past 10 years and this is evident in everything we have achieved.
“We are sorry to see him go but understand his desire to move on and explore new challenges.”
Chelsea saw their bid for Romelu Lukaku hijacked by United and also failed to secure priority Conte targets Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro, whom Juventus refused to sell. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ross Barkley also declined moves to Stamford Bridge in the frantic final few days of the transfer window.
Conte, having elected to sign an improved rather than extended contract at Chelsea in the summer, has made numerous pointed references to the shortage of established players in his squad over the past few weeks as injuries to N’Golo Kante, Victor Moses and Danny Drinkwater have added to their difficulties.
Abramovich visited Cobham after Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth last month to observe training and speak to Conte, but he and Granovskaia remain an infrequent presence at the training ground, with the latter working mainly from Stamford Bridge.
It remains to be seen how the departure of Emenalo — whose office was situated opposite to Conte’s at Cobham — will affect Chelsea’s decision-making structure, or who will be appointed to replace him as technical director.
Emenalo has been an unpopular figure among Chelsea supporters since joining the club as head of opposition scouting in October 2007. His elevation to assistant first-team coach under Carlo Ancelotti came at the expense of Ray Wilkins, a club legend whose departure in many eyes undermined the Italian.
In July 2011 he was promoted to the role of technical director, overseeing Chelsea’s scouting network and academy programme as well as the club’s controversial but lucrative mass loan system.
While widely criticised, he also presided over the signings of key players such as Eden Hazard, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thibaut Courtois and N’Golo Kante, as well as a Chelsea academy that has emerged as a dominant force in English and European youth football.
Emenalo will be best remembered by many Chelsea fans for the rare interview he granted to the club’s in-house TV channel immediately following Jose Mourinho’s departure in December 2015, in which he revealed that “palpable discord” had developed between the manager and his players.