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Chelsea hold commercial talks with Chinese company - sources

Gab Marcotti explains Michael Emenalo's resignation as Chelsea technical director and Antonio Conte's role in him leaving.

LONDON -- Chelsea held talks with a Chinese company last week over the possibility of a commercial partnership, sources have confirmed to ESPN FC.

Some reports have suggested that the purpose of the meeting was to secure funding for Chelsea's redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, currently scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2021-22 season.

But sources at the club insisted the talks were merely part of Chelsea's broader drive to boost their commercial revenue by exploring new partnerships, adding that owner Roman Abramovich has no plans to offer potential investors any equity in the club.

Last month, Chelsea's new commercial director, Chris Townsend, told the Financial Times that he aims to double revenues to more than £650 million by increasing the number of sponsors from 12 to between 30 and 35.

"Over the next seven to 10 years [we want Chelsea] to be a top four or five club in Europe [by revenue], rather than ranked eighth," he said. "Manchester United, Manchester City and others have between 50 and 70 [sponsors]. We plan to focus on more premium brands in a far more limited range of categories."

Chelsea held talks with a Chinese company last week over the possibility of a commercial partnership.

Chelsea have since announced a commercial partnership with Sony Music, and sources have told ESPN FC that the club are already exploring naming-rights agreements for their redeveloped stadium, though it is yet to be decided whether "Stamford Bridge" would remain in the title of the ground.

The Premier League champions are also working to increase their profile in the Far East, though their efforts suffered an embarrassing setback over the summer when Kenedy was sent home from the club's preseason tour of Asia for posting offensive comments about China on his Snapchat account.

Japanese company Yokohama and Thai energy drink provider Carabao signed lucrative deals in 2015 to sponsor Chelsea's playing kit and training gear respectively, and Blues legend Frank Lampard is currently in Tokyo for a club visit celebrating the 2016-17 Premier League title triumph.

Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.

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