Antonio Conte‘s rumoured falling out with Roman Abramovich over transfers will be bringing bad memories back to Chelsea fans as another Premier League title win faces being soured almost immediately after it is completed.
The Italian tactician’s anger and possible threat to walk away from Stamford Bridge may seem unreasonable to some, but the reasons for his discontent will be all too familiar as Chelsea seem to struggle to learn from their past mistakes.
Jose Mourinho is no longer adored by the Chelsea crowd after the nature of his departure from the club and subsequent move to rivals Manchester United, but he summed up his feelings about the running of the club well just two summers ago.
Chelsea strolled to the title in 2014/15 but needed to build as clubs around them strengthened. Much to Mourinho’s frustration, however, in came a number of flop signings such as Radamel Falcao, Baba Rahman, Papy Djilobodji and Michael Hector.
Ranting about Chelsea’s inactivity, the Portuguese said: ‘Here, Man City won (the 2014 title) and Chelsea was not happy, Man United was not happy, Arsenal was not happy and Liverpool was not happy. Chelsea – Diego Costa, (Cesc) Fabregas, (Thibaut) Courtois. Arsenal – Alexis Sanchez, (Mesut) Ozil. This season Chelsea are champions; Liverpool and Man United bought. Arsenal, Petr Cech. People react. Man City, the first thing they did in the summer was (Raheem) Sterling. Here and in the Champions League people react. It’s more difficult to be champions.
‘If one day Chelsea wants to make a very important buy Chelsea has economical conditions for that and also moral conditions for that.’
It has been widely reported that Conte has had a busy summer in mind for the last few months now, with Diego Costa already being shown the door as Romelu Lukaku is targeted, while even the fine form of Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas hasn’t stopped the former Juventus boss for seeking big-money signings at wing-back and central midfield. With John Terry retiring, centre-back is another obvious area that needs work, even if the talented youngster Andreas Christensen is returning to the fold after two years on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach.
Even if reports that suggest the situation has now been resolved and Conte will get £250million to spend are correct, the manager will feel justified in pushing the club to get their act together after a slow start to the summer.
Chelsea benefited, as Leicester City did the season before, from a lack of Champions League football as they were able to put all their energy into winning the title. Even then, the wheels came off slightly towards the end of the season with tame defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United and then to Arsenal in the FA Cup final. As with Chelsea’s relatively unchallenged title win in 2015, this year’s success seemed to once again bring an alarming level of complacency against the Gunners at Wembley, with the 2-1 scoreline arguably flattering a side who were big favourites before the match and just one win away from the double.
Ambitious perfectionist that he is, Conte will be eager to bolster his squad for the demands of European football next season, and rightly so. Looking at how things went for Chelsea two years ago, he’ll be well aware that a less-than-perfect start can cause things to go completely off the rails.
As Mourinho noted, money should not be an issue for Chelsea after profitable sales of so many youngsters and loanees who never even made it onto the Stamford Bridge turf, not to mention the £60million brought in from Oscar just six months ago. With Costa likely to leave this summer, that could be another £60million-plus to add to the coffers.
A signing like Romelu Lukaku should not be an issue for the Blues, even if it does mean breaking the £100million barrier – the Belgian is one of the best in the world, has his peak years ahead of him, and is an ideal fit for this team. The fee would break the world transfer record, but if Chelsea don’t do it, someone else will, and they’ll be better off for it. Elsewhere, Manchester United have already signed Victor Lindeof; Manchester City have already won the race for Bernardo Silva; Arsenal pounced for the free transfer of Sead Kolasinac – all three would almost certainly have improved this Chelsea squad.
Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, this saga may indeed only have one outcome: the stubborn Conte made a sudden departure from Juventus under similar circumstances in 2014 and will not be keen on conceding ground to Abramovich, but history shows that the manager will always lose that battle.
Claudio Ranieri – 31 May 2004
Jose Mourinho – 19 Sep 2007
Avram Grant – 24 May 2008
Luiz Felipe Scolari – 9 Feb 2009
Carlo Ancelotti – 22 May 2011
Andre Villas-Boas – 4 Mar 2012
Roberto Di Matteo – 21 Nov 2012
Jose Mourinho – 17 Dec 2015
In fairness to the Russian, his own track record will give him the confidence of replacing the 47-year-old – there are some claims that former Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel is being considered – as he has done so time and time again to continue delivering silverware, even if the odd season here and there hasn’t gone to plan, with the Mourinho crisis in 2015/16 being the most extreme of examples.
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