While it’s a bit of a reach to paint to Chelsea as some plucky financial underdog when it comes to the transfer market — we may not be the richest, but you can count on your fingers the clubs whom we cannot outbid for a player* — Antonio Conte’s emphasis on finding the right targets (at the right price) rings as true today as it did last summer and in January as well.
We only have to look at the comparable amounts spent on N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi if we need hard evidence to back up the head coach’s statements.
“I think in every situation it's important to find the right balance. If you have to spend money, try and spend that money in the right way to take players with the right characteristics for your idea of football. “
"But, for us, I repeat: this season is very important because we are trying to build something important for the present, to put the foundations down and be strong, stronger for the future. And to build, also, slowly slowly to become a real power. A real power in the future.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Goal
Conte’s quotes have been reported as “taking a swipe” at the biggest spenders of the league, who are currently well off the pace set by Chelsea and Spurs. But I’m not sure Conte’s so concerned with them as much as he’s concerned with what Chelsea might do and where Chelsea might spend our moneys. While rumors out of Cobham have been strong all season of Chelsea willing to spend big to support Conte’s plans for next season, he’s still just the head coach and thus not a final decision-maker in these sorts of things.
While there’s no obvious or easy answer (coaches come and go much quicker than players and directors), ideally we’ll find a consensus solution like the aforementioned Kante for example.
“N’Golo was our target. I was very pleased to reach this target in our transfer market. We spent this money in the right way.”
“Also, it’s important to understand that sometimes you can see players with great talent, who score goals - and these players are important - but if you trust in an idea of football, in the team, it’s important to have a squad with good balance, A squad with talent but also with people like N’Golo, who are very good, very strong at winning the ball, fighting and working so hard for the team.”
“When you build a team it’s important to have a mix of talent, of people who work so hard, and to try to improve and find the right mix.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
It’s easy to read these quotes in the context of the supposed Lukaku vs. Morata conundrum facing the club should we have to replace Costa this summer (which we will likely have to do), so hopefully we’ll make the correct choice (as much as market conditions will allow of course).
“It's very important to understand that it's not always about who spends more money who wins.”
"Every single club decides their own strategy. But, if you ask me... This season isn't the only season the Manchester clubs have spent a lot of money. Look at the past. It's normal(ity). It's right for them to do this, to reinforce their teams, if they think this is the right way to win the title.”
“I think that every team must understand which are their priorities. And then try and understand which are the problems you are facing now, and the problems you could have in the future. And then try and solve the situation.”
"It could be that one team needs, for example, only one or two players because they already have a very strong squad. So they don't need to spend an awful lot of money. Or you might need more players and you have to spend a lot more money.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Goal
Chelsea do have a strong squad, but as we’ve seen after each of our last two title wins, it’s very important to stay proactive and not let stagnation set in. What worked this season may not work so well in the next; players who were motivated in a certain way this season may not respond as well in the next. A bit of fresh blood, some new ideas, a few additional eager and willing minds are just as important in keeping a strong core together.
Whatever the summer brings, we have to ensure that we build on the successes of this season. Conte has hauled Chelsea back up from the relative depths of mid-table mediocrity, but the improvement never stops.
*by my reckoning, that’s Manchesters United and City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, and Bayern.