Antonio Conte directed more thinly-veiled criticism at Chelsea’s transfer policy by claiming that he is a “disaster” at convincing the clubs he works for to buy the players he wants.
Tensions between Conte and the Chelsea hierarchy have been building since last summer when the club director and dealmaker Marina Granovskaia could not find a way to prise Alex Sandro from Juventus and Manchester United hijacked the Blues’ proposed move for Romelu Lukaku.
Other players recommended by Conte, most notably Leonardo Bonucci and Fernando Llorente, were dismissed by Chelsea as being too old to fit the broader remit of refreshing the squad with younger players who can grow at Stamford Bridge and accumulate in value.
Chelsea did not compete with Liverpool or United for headline names Virgil van Dijk and Alexis Sanchez in January, instead they reinforced Conte’s squad options with Ross Barkley, Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud for a combined outlay of just over £50 million.
Earlier this month, Conte warned that Chelsea must prioritise quality over quantity in the transfer market this summer in order to regain ground on the Manchester clubs, and speaking on Friday he said: “I think I’m a bit of a disaster to convince the club to buy the players.
“In this aspect I can improve a lot. I have to learn a lot from the other coaches, the other managers, in that aspect. I have to speak more with the managers who are very, very good to persuade their clubs to spend money and buy top players.”
Conte’s latest words will not go down well with the Chelsea board, particularly at a time when the Italian’s immediate future at Stamford Bridge has been left in serious doubt by damaging back-to-back defeats in the Premier League against Bournemouth and Watford.
Chelsea have no desire to part with Conte before the summer, but another loss at home to West Brom on Monday could seal his fate. The situation is a far cry from May, when a 1-0 victory over the same opponents at The Hawthorns wrapped up a convincing Premier League title triumph.
Conte’s coaching skills were at the heart of that success, switching to a 3-4-3 formation in October while reinventing Victor Moses as a wing-back and Cesar Azpilicueta as a central defender.
“I think that I’m the type of coach who, if I have a player who is [a] six, I bring him to an eight,” he added. “If I have a player who is eight, I take him to 10.
“I’m this type of coach. My task is to try and improve every single player, in every aspect. The mentality also. About the desire, the will to fight, and the tactical aspects. My task is this and for this, I’m very good.”
When it was put to Conte that he might be too adept at improving players for his own good when it comes to convincing his clubs to spend more, he replied: “You are not the first person to suggest this, to tell me this.”
Meanwhile, Conte admitted he is a big admirer of his potential successor Luis Enrique.
The former Barcelona manager is reportedly one of the prime candidates to replace him at Chelsea should he leave, and Conte revealed that he regards Luis Enrique extremely highly.
“Yes, yes. I knew him. When I was the coach of Juventus, he was Roma’s coach. Yes. I have spoken with him,” said Conte.
“We played against each other, and he’s a really good person. I have great admiration for Luis Enrique and he is a fantastic coach.
“He reached his targets with Barcelona, and also with Roma, you could see a well-organised team. I can speak about him very well, as a person and a coach.”