Perhaps the most surprising thing is that it took several hours for the tabloids to catch up. Manchester United moved too fast even for them, and those stories of Conte’s fury weren’t going to write themselves instantly. The gazumping was on, and we were all just gawking.
Thanks to that delay, many saw it coming.
If I was a journo wanting clickbait I'd be writing an article on how Conte is thinking of quitting because of Lukaku.— Izzo (@izzdashizz79) July 6, 2017
Expect it today.
No rumor left behind, that’s the Mirror’s policy.
Though in fairness, this line was already baited by earlier reports from generally more trustworthy sources.
Interesting to see how Conte reacts to this. He was desperate for Lukaku. Won't be a happy man— James Ducker (@TelegraphDucker) July 6, 2017
One thing for certain, Conte will not be a happy man if United complete Lukaku deal. He's been desperate to get him for Chelsea.— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) July 6, 2017
Desperate, I tells ya!
So desperate in fact, that not a month ago, he was ready to quit Chelsea because he had no say in transfers and the club were going to saddle him with Lukaku. For most of the second half of the season, as Diego Costa’s ultimate fate became ever more likely, all we heard was how Conte preferred Morata (and even Belotti at one point) over Lukaku, even if the latter was also on his shortlist when he signed the former for Juventus back in 2014.
Sorry to disrupt the consensus of woe, but Lukaku Emenalo's choice. Not Conte's. Want evidence of the boss being backed? You just got it.— Dan Levene (@danlevene) July 6, 2017
Should Conte get Morata, he may be very happy, there had been impression that Lukaku was a Chelsea club choice, rather than manager.— Sport Witness (@Sport_Witness) July 6, 2017
Speculation earlier in the summer that members of #CFC backroom staff (including Emenalo) wanted Lukaku, while Conte preferred Morata.— Tom McDermott (@MrTomMcDermott) June 16, 2017
A story last week said if we get Lukaku, it's Emenalo's choice. If we get Morata, it's Conte's choice...— Sid Celery (@sidcelery) April 3, 2017
And so on and so forth. At least one tabloid went even as far at one point as to describe the disagreement over strikers as a “Civil War” between head coach and technical director. And yet here we are, supposedly once again at each others’ throats because Chelsea were gazumped for Lukaku (probably; it’s not yet final).
It is of course entirely possible that Conte made his peace with the Lukaku option — quite likely, in fact — and wants Chelsea to sign a striker above not signing a striker, even if that means not getting his top choice. But to threaten to quit over both sides of the same issue is a bit rich even for this wonderful world of transfer rumors.
Week 1: Conte wants Morata not Lukaku— #4. (@ThatMunichNight) July 6, 2017
2: wants Belotti not Lukaku
3: wants Lukaku, no one else
4: wants anyone but Lukaku
So mysterious. https://t.co/Y0UeZ56hP3
Chelsea obviously need a big signing at striker unless we’re willing to tackle the new season with Michy Batshuayi and, say, Fernando Llorente. That would certainly be a bold call.
Meanwhile, are we to once again worry about Conte quitting over all this nonsense? If that’s your prerogative, go right ahead. Conte has been typecast into this possibility after walking away from Bari and Juventus over somewhat similar circumstances. But, as we talked about before, if Conte has the constitution of your average Twitter mouth-breather when it comes to transfer market signings, then that’s not passion, that’s just nonsense. Surely, Conte is more familiar with the pitfalls of the transfer market than those of us groomed by FIFA and FM.
Chelsea getting beat (probably) to Lukaku’s signature is unfortunate, but it would appear that we spent over a month trying to lower the fee to something we’d be willing to pay. United’s bid is supposedly in the range of £75m + £15m incentives + £10m Wayne Rooney. Could we have worked something similarly creative with Nemanja Matić? Possibly. Or possibly not. None of us actually know what’s going on behind the scenes and we’re left to interpret media reports of unknown sourcing and of dubious value.
If Chelsea or Conte did in fact prioritize Lukaku, then somebody somewhere dropped the ball or were outmaneuvered by Lukaku’s agent Mino Raiola who’s apparently convinced Lukaku to change his mind from last month when he said in public that he wanted to come to Chelsea. You can place the blame on your favorite scapegoat at this point. Or we can move on to Plan B, or Plan X — or Plan A, if Conte did not in fact have Lukaku at the top of his wishlist — or whatever solution the people responsible for coming up with a solution can come up with at this point.
Time is of the essence. There is still plenty of time. Diego Costa didn’t get signed until July 15.