TWO days before last month’s FA Cup final, Antonio Conte and Michael Emenalo were laughing and joking on the pitch where Chelsea’s players had just finished training.
In blistering sunshine, it was smiles, brotherly back-slapping and even sly hand-cupped verbal exchanges between the two as if they were sharing a private joke. That was then, this is now. And it is Chelsea, after all.
Barely three weeks since the head coach and the club’s technical director were so happy in each other’s company there are now simmering issues behind the frontline facade of unity.
This is where Conte is getting tough with those above him at Stamford Bridge in the way he has been so ruthless with those below — like striker Diego Costa.
And the whole world knows from that example how, despite his amiable personality, Conte can be bloody quick to lose his rag and do something silly.
With not a single signing in the bag since winning the Premier League on May 12, it is no surprise Conte is hardly rushing to sign a new contract and is growing increasingly frustrated.
As the world’s most sought-after coach, the astute Italian knows now is when he can exert most pressure on everyone to get what he wants.
That is a squad capable of retaining the title and winning the Champions League, plus pay parity with the likes of £12million-a-year Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, who he embarrassed last season.
The transfer window has been open for only a week but already Conte feels Chelsea are lagging behind their rivals. That Emenalo and transfer tsarina Marina Granovskaia are not doing the business.
Despite much posturing, they have yet to actually push the start button on detailed talks to sign Everton star Romelu Lukaku.
The £70m-rated striker is on holiday with his mum and brother in the desert — an appropriate symbol of Chelsea’s transfer activity.
Conte is watching his preferred choice of striker, Alvaro Morata, slip quietly through London on his way to Manchester United.
He has got nowhere with his desire to snap up midfielder Alex Sandro from his old club Juventus.
They even had a nibble at West Ham winger Michail Antonio but that came to nothing.
Of course, Chelsea get linked with every top name on the planet at some stage, particularly having just won the league and with plenty of dosh to spend.
Yet Conte is watching his dressing room be steadily drained with players leaving. Since January, five key men have gone: legendary captain John Terry, highly decorated Branislav Ivanovic, Brazilian midfielder Oscar, John Obi Mikel and reserve keeper Asmir Begovic.
Striker Bertrand Traore is poised to complete a £12m move to French side Lyon having barely kicked a ball for the Blues.
Oscar’s sale alone raked in £50m. The rest have been released on free transfers but that is still a massive burden taken off the wage bill, which at one point recently topped £200m a year.
Conte must share some of the responsibility. He took the role of head coach rather than manager to remain at arm’s length from transfer dealings, leaving it to those who know best.
But when the ‘in’ door at Stamford Bridge is rusted shut questions will be asked about whether the best club in the land are as slick behind the scenes as they look on grass.
Conte’s predecessor, Jose Mourinho, raised the point back in August 2015 in the wake of a damaging home defeat by Crystal Palace, pointing out that he had submitted his shopping list the previous April but little or nothing had been done about it.
Or whether there is a bit of a squeeze going on from up top, where owner Roman Abramovich wants to see more of the kids from his academy getting a go in the first team.
Terry — the one major home-grown influence in the squad — is gone, bringing the painful truth to bear that there is not a serious candidate from the youth ranks to replace him.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ola Aina, Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake; all have been used as bit-parts, failing to win a regular place.
Abramovich wants more from the five-star academy building which sits next to the first team’s at Chelsea’s luxurious training ground in Surrey.
Conte wants a team for the here and now like every other top-flight boss, working alongside the notion that six games without a win can lead to the sack.
There are other minor issues which have suddenly become exaggerated given the rising tensions in the corridors of power at Chelsea.
The club made it plain former assistant coach Steve Holland would not be replaced. Conte is not keen to get involved with the kids.
He is a man who likes to be in control but as everyone at Chelsea knows by now, he can lose it quite easily with seismic consequences.