As the Romelu Lukaku transfer saga rumbles on, the question remains how the striker's acquisition will impact Antonio Conte's plans for next season; a campaign fleshed out by a return to the Champions League.
Lukaku's mooted return to Stamford Bridge should, in theory, spell the end of Diego Costa's Chelsea career. The January transfer window saw Costa linked with a move to Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian, who were reported to be offering a deal worth £30-million-a-year. However, the 28-year-old claimed recently he would rather sit out the remaining two years of his contract than move to China and if he were to be sold it would be to a European club, widely accepted to be former club Atletico Madrid. But the La Liga side's unsuccessful appeal regarding their transfer ban has shelved the Costa return rumours for now.
Costa may have a tempestuous streak, but he knows how to find the back of the net, as 22 goals in 42 appearances for Chelsea last season proved. Such prowess cannot be ignored and given the ankle injury sustained by Eden Hazard is likely to sideline him beyond the start of next season, Conte may decide the safest and most practical option is to retain Costa's services.
The Lukaku / Costa conundrum is further complicated by the presence in the Chelsea squad of Michy Batshuayi. Despite not being able to nail down a regular first team place last season following his £33 million transfer from Marseille, he provided plenty of glimpses of his unquestionable talent as a striker. Batshuayi's appearances have largely come from the substitutes' bench -- 21 out of 28 to be precise -- but the 23-year old still managed to score nine goals, including what proved to be the Premier League title clincher at West Bromwich Albion.
His hot streak of form at the end of the campaign, which brought four goals in Chelsea's final three league games, continued on to the international stage earlier this week when the striker opened the scoring for Belgium in a 2-1 friendly victory over the Czech Republic.
Following the win, Batshuayi was asked about his future at Stamford Bridge and he advised that he was "expecting phone calls," but insisted the decision would be Chelsea's. Conte would have noted that in the absence of the injured Hazard, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez opted to start Lukaku and Batshuayi together.
Should Lukaku make the move to Stamford Bridge, Conte might use preseason to evaluate the capability of pairing the 24-year-old with his countryman Batshuayi -- and indeed Costa.
Chelsea playing with two up front is a mouth-watering prospect for the club's supporters and a development that Conte would seemingly be willing to embrace if he had the right personnel to make the switch in strategy effective.
As Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta will testify, the Italian has proven himself to be a shrewd tactician, capable of getting willing players to adapt their game to suit his exacting requirements. Batshuayi's unbridled enthusiasm and aptitude for the game suggests he has similar malleable qualities which could prove invaluable as Chelsea embark on an arduous campaign that in all likelihood will surpass 50 matches.
Conte has spoken previously about the sleepless nights thinking about football gives him and although it is to be hoped the Italian is finding the time to recharge his batteries, it's more than likely he will have been tossing and turning as next season pervades his thoughts. Hopefully, when the Lukaku situation resolves itself one way or another, things will be clearer for Conte.
Although it's still hard to imagine the Chelsea manager taking it easy, which is probably not a bad thing for the London club and its fans for whom the painful memories of their last title defence, when they finished 10th in 2015-16, still linger.