This is exclusively reported by Times UK
Antonio Conte is in a stand-off with the Chelsea hierarchy over transfer targets, with the club reluctant to bow to the manager’s request to spend significant sums of money on experienced players with little resale value. In addition to personal tension between Conte and some Chelsea staff brought about by what is perceived as his incessant demands, it is understood that there is also a philosophical difference between the Italian and the club as they seek to overhaul their squad. Senior Chelsea sources have told The Times that while Conte is concerned only with assembling a squad capable of competing in the Premier League and Champions League this season, the board have a responsibility to plan for the medium and long term.
FIVE PLAYERS ITALIAN WANTS
Fernando Llorente Club: Swansea City Age: 32
Ivan Perisic Club: Inter Milan Age: 28
Virgil van Dijk Club: Southampton Age: 26
Antonio Candreva Club: Inter Milan Age: 30
Alex Sandro Club: Juventus Age: 26
Conte’s remaining targets — Swansea City’s Fernando Llorente (age 32) and the Inter Milan pair, Antonio Candreva (30) and Ivan Perisic (28) — are nearer to the end of their careers and would therefore have little or no resale value. Chelsea have also signed Willy Caballero, the 35-year-old from Manchester City, as reserve goalkeeper, but he arrived on a free transfer.
Chelsea’s preferred transfer policy is to target young players whose market value will either remain stable or increase — the £41 million profit made from selling Oscar, who joined as a 20-year-old, to Shanghai SIPG in January being a prime example — but Conte has little interest in long-term planning.
Conte has proposed Leonardo Bonucci, 30, as a transfer target in each of the past two summers, but Chelsea refused to seriously pursue him, with the Italy defender instead leaving Juventus for AC Milan last month for £38 million. This clear difference in priorities is understood to be one of the reasons why Conte signed a two-year contract this summer rather than the four-year deal that he was initially offered, with both parties seemingly accepting that the manager’s stay at the club will be relatively short. Chelsea have also been disappointed with the time and opportunities that Conte has given to the club’s home- grown players, despite being told that youth development was a significant part of the job during his initial contract talks 18 months ago.
Chelsea’s desire to pursue young players with future resale value has been reinforced by a difficult transfer window, in which they took the gamble of selling Nemanja Matic to a direct rival in Manchester United to maximise a fee that could rise to as much as £40 million.
While Chelsea are frustrated by some of Conte’s demands, they will not be shocked. They are aware that Conte behaved similarly every year at Juventus, his former club, where despite winning three successive Serie A titles the manager was viewed as extremely high maintenance.