Chelsea proved any and all doubters wrong this season, continuing the club’s winning tradition and showing that last season was simply an aberration. While the new additions were crucial to our success — Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, N'Golo Kanté and Victor Moses all played key roles — most of the squad were the same who also won the league with Mourinho two years ago and then dropped to the brink of the relegation zone six months later.
As strong as the core of this team might be after two Premier League titles in three seasons, part of the reason for that middle year was a lack of proper reinforcements in the offseason. While changes for change’s sake are not advisable, changes to reinforce, to keep the squad competitive and to keep the coach’s message fresh, are. By all accounts, the people in charge recognize this and there’s a sense that Antonio Conte will be supported very well in the transfer market this summer. The 200m figure thrown around lately might sound excessive, but if Conte wants six new signings, as the Independent’s Miguel Delaney tells us, to properly compete on two major fronts next season, then it might even be a low estimate of the investment required.
As per the report, Conte wants two defenders, two strikers, a midfielder and a back-up goalkeeper. The latter would be prompted by Asmir Begovic's departure from the club, with the Bosnian international eager to find playing time at a new club. Begovic was ready to leave in January but agreed to stay through the end of the year as Chelsea were unable to secure a replacement.
The report continues with the defenders, where our primary target is supposedly Southampton's Virgil van Dijk. Though the 25-year-old has been sidelined since January due to an ankle (or foot?) injury that required surgery, he remains on the radar of several top clubs including Chelsea. Getting Van Dijk will not be at all easy however, especially after Saints stated intent to turn themselves into less of a selling club and reject bids even as high as £60million.
There are no names mentioned for the second defensive target, only that he would be a “left-sided” defender, presumably to back up Marcos Alonso on the left flank. Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy is a strong candidate if Michy Batshuayi’s retweets are anything to go by.
Batshuayi, hero status notwithstanding, does not appear to be factoring into the plans at striker, especially as the report seems to imply a major signing at that position regardless of how Costa’s China deal works out. Either Alvaro Morata (Conte’s preference) or Romelu Lukaku (the Board’s, though Conte also rates him) could arrive to play alongside Costa, while if Costa does leave, Conte would be expected to rekindle interest in Swansea's Fernando Llorente. Llorente was heavily linked in January before deciding to stay and help Swansea stay up (successfully). One more recent name that’s emerged in this department is Dries Mertens who may be having contractual issues, but Napoli don’t want to sell and we probably don’t have the patience to deal with their owner.
For the midfield, it’s increasingly looking like Monaco's Tiemoué Bakayoko is our main target. While Manchester United are also looking at this option (what option aren’t they looking at these days?), Chelsea apparently believe that we have the edge over Mourinho & Co in the battle for his signature.
To help foot the bill, some departures should be expected. According to the report, Willian could be the biggest non-Costa name out the door, perhaps heading to a reunion with the aforementioned Mourinho at United.
While most of this sounds like a recap of the past six months of transfer rumors and assorted activities, there are a couple new wrinkles worthy of paying attention to, namely that a big-name signing at striker doesn’t necessarily depend on Costa leaving and that Van Dijk’s price just keeps going up and up.
On the plus side, Chelsea certainly seem intent on following through with the plans to reinforce the squad and enable Conte to continue improving and winning.