This one comes from Duncan Castles, writing for The Sunday Times, which is a somewhat surprising source given his usual close(r) affiliations with Mourinho, Mendes, and Manchester United.
That doesn’t necessarily make it false or baseless of course, so let’s see what he has to say.
Antonio Conte will play hardball over his Chelsea future by insisting the club uses the summer transfer window to build him a squad capable of winning the Champions League as a condition of committing to a long-term contract.
Hardball? That’s a good word to sell this article, to be sure. The black and white lead picture also adds a certain bit of dramatic flair.
Alternatively, that’s the spending spree that’s been rumored multiple times since September, initially for January but then for the summer once the turnaround engineered by the switch to the 3-4-3 was in full swing. If that’s a part of Conte’s contract negotiations, then that’s surely not a sticking point.
Though the club has yet to formally offer the 47-year-old an improved deal, journalists have been briefed that an extension will be announced at the end of this campaign.
According to sources, Conte believes he is entitled to such support [...] particularly so as the club failed to provide him with any of the reinforcements he requested ahead of the current campaign. He will also argue that a manager-led recruitment policy is essential to transferring the club’s domestic success to the Champions League’s significantly more demanding stage.
Not even a hint who these sources might be?
But if Conte’s looking for a manager-led recruitment policy, he’s at the wrong place at the wrong time and someone gave him very bad directions last summer. That’s not how Chelsea operate; surely, he knows what he signed up for.
Since his arrival, Conte has talked many times about the good communication (and the need for good communication) with the Chelsea Board who are ultimately responsible for the club’s transfer dealings. He also often talks about his biggest mandate as head coach being the constant improvement of players. Whoever he’s working with, his job is to improve them and get the best out of them. Sure, David Luiz or Marcos Alonso may not have been his first choices as reinforcements, but he seems to have coped just fine.
Castles’s report claims that Conte “wants” a quality starter at center forward, center midfield, and the right-hand side of the defense. These days, £200m will unfortunatley not get you much more than that!
The first one’s clearly dependent on what Diego Costa ends up doing (Batshuayi hardly factors in at this point) and falls in line with the ceaseless rumors regarding Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku and others. Center midfield is an interesting one given Kanté’s magnificence and the recent rumors about a new contract for Matić. With Fàbregas not angling to leave, not sure where the space is for a new starter? Meanwhile, at the right-hand side of the defense is currently César Azpilicueta, the man Conte himself recently called “one of the best in the world” at that position. Who are we going to upgrade him with?
Conte left Juventus back in 2014 because he supposedly felt unsupported in the transfer market, and the idea that Chelsea would rest on our laurels after winning the title isn’t baseless (see: summers of 2015 and 2010). But Chelsea were the third biggest spenders last summer behind the two Manchester clubs and there’s little reason to think we won’t be out there actively improving the squad ahead of next season’s Champions League campaign and generally more congested fixture list. If that’s to the tune of £200m, we could be in for some fun.