Fight and hard work. Those are the ingredients Antonio Conte repeatedly stressed at his unveiling as Chelsea manager on Thursday as being integral to his ambition to turn the club back into a Premier League and Champions League force. And it is exactly those qualities that are possessed in abundance by the man Chelsea appear determined to make its second signing of the summer transfer window.
Conte is now fully engrossed in his role leading the Chelsea squad after guiding Italy to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016. Already he has added a new signing to the equation, with the completion of a 33 million pounds ($44 million) transfer for Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi. And he has emphasized that, when looking for future signings before the summer transfer window closes at the end of next month, he will be looking at more than just who the biggest names are.
“I prefer to speak with my club and we will take the decision on players who adapt to our idea of football – not to take the champions only because they are the champions, but players who adapt to our philosophy,” he said.
“In these two days, I saw players with the right attitude, with the right behavior, with a great will to fight for this shirt.”
It has been widely reported since that firm moves have already been made to bring in a fresh face who fits his characteristics of an ideal player to a tee. N’Golo Kante produced more tackles and more interceptions than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues last season and his work rate and energy was such that he allowed Leicester City to play with just a two-man midfield en route to winning the Premier League title.
Chelsea is now reported to have launched a bid of 30 million pounds ($40 million) for a player who went onto represent France at Euro 2016. Leicester is understandably determined to hold onto such a key figure and has offered the 25-year-old a new contract. However, manager Claudio Ranieri has said Kante’s future is “in his own hands.”
Intriguingly, Conte said at his press conference that he would soon be speaking to his fellow Italian to get advice on the Premier League “I will call Claudio Ranieri in the days ahead for some advice, and he’s a lovely man,” Conte added. It has to be wondered whether some polite inquiries about Kante will also be thrown into the mix.
The fact that there is such strong interest in Kante suggests that Nemanja Matic’s Chelsea career may be nearing an end after a poor season last term. Indeed, Kante is not the only dynamic midfielder to be linked with a transfer to Stamford Bridge this summer.
Roma’s Radja Nainggolan was quickly put forward as a leading target upon Conte being announced as the next Chelsea coach in April. While Nainggolan would offer a more offensive threat than Kante, it remains to be seen whether it is a case of either or, or if both could arrive.
Prizing the Belgium international away from the Serie A side promises to be a tall order, however, given that he has provided assurances that he will stay with Roma. Still, the Daily Mail claims that Chelsea has not yet given up hope.
Chelsea has already been dealt a blow in its pursuit of another transfer target. When Real Madrid activated its option to re-sign Alvaro Morata from Juventus earlier this summer, it was widely believed that it was only in order to quickly sell him on at a significant profit, with Chelsea one of the leading suitors.
In recent days, however, it was reported that Real Madrid had had a change of heart, with Zinedine Zidane keen to have the Spain striker among his squad for the coming season. Chelsea’s hopes may not be completely dashed, with Madrid-based sports daily AS stating that a sale hasn’t been completely ruled out by the Champions League holders. Chelsea would, though, likely have to pay more than 60 million euros ($66.7 million) to sign the 23-year-old, who scored 31 goals in two seasons with Juventus.