Couple interesting things from Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard this morning.
One is that part of Conte’s condition to agreeing to the new contract is transfer expediency, rather than transfer control, which reads to me as a slight difference in emphasis in overall transfer strategy (i.e. speed over value) rather than changing of the overall transfer strategy itself. That does mesh well with both the general synergy between Conte, Emenalo, and the Board that is often reported, but would also explain some of the surprising actions from Conte (e.g. the Costa text) and the possible discord that was the cause for much consternation last week (e.g. just pay €90m for Lukaku or whatever and get it done).
Two is that Chelsea have identified (re-identified?) Leonardo Bonucci and Virgil van Dijk as our two primary transfer targets at center back, the former of which is no doubt music to Conte’s ears while the latter is a scary word for any of the negotiating team who now must double- and triple-check everything they do lest they be accused of tapping-up by Southampton. Should Chelsea be successful in signing either player, Kurt Zouma, as previously also rumored, would be shown the loan door and head out to Nice or Lyon or whoever might be interested.
Trouble is, neither Bonucci nor Van Dijk come across as particularly attainable targets at this time. Bonucci is amazing, but is over 30 and thus (potentially?) incompatible with the club’s long-standing (and rabidly agist) policy of offering only 1-year contracts to players of that age. Chelsea simply don’t sign players 30 and over anymore unless they’re backup goalkeepers and even existing club legends don’t get exemptions to the contract renewal policy. And that’s before we consider that Bonucci has repeatedly and unerringly denied any and all exit rumors, and unlike in the case of Dani Alves or even Alex Sandro, Juventus have shown no inclination at all to sell their long-serving center back.
Meanwhile, Southampton successfully repelled Liverpool’s attempt at acquiring Van Dijk and while it would be hilarious if Van Dijk did end up moving to Chelsea or wherever after all that drama, chances are he’s not going anywhere this summer with Saints standing guard over him and ready to deploy the tapping-up-accusation MIRV.
Part of a proper transfer strategy is setting realistic targets. Bonucci and Van Dijk, unless Chelsea have a some serious magic up their sleeves, are not realistic at all. If we are to truly enter into a new era of collaborative and effective player recruitment, this is not the greatest start and is only bound to lead to nothing more than further consternation over Chelsea’s transfer market activities.