Antonio Conte’s frustrations with Chelsea’s inability to add significantly to their squad will not extend to expecting the club to overpay for “medium-level” players this summer, though the Italian is still hopeful his options will have been bolstered by the time the deadline passes at the end of August.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Chelsea had hoped to three or four major signings to supplement a squad which came 10th last season, their lowest finish under Roman Abramovich, and had initially hoped the bulk of their business would have been concluded well before the start of the Italian’s first Premier League campaign. However, only N’Golo Kanté and Michy Batshuayi, for a combined £65.1m from Leicester City and Marseille respectively, have arrived to date.
Dinamo Zagreb’s Portuguese goalkeeper, Eduardo, should arrive next week to provide cover for Thibaut Courtois, and interest in Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly remains strong. Yet the Italian club, who have already rejected an offer worth £42.5m for the centre-half, now value the 25-year-old at closer to £60m. That for a player who has six caps for Senegal and cost only £7m from Genk in 2014.
Conte said last week that the transfer market had become “crazy” in the wake of the Premier League’s latest broadcast deal. “Yes, ‘crazy’ for the prices [being quoted],” he said. “At this moment it’s very difficult to buy because, also, if you ask a player of the medium level, a club might ask for £55m. For this reason, it’s a crazy market. It’s very difficult to enter the market with these prices and in this condition.
“I’m not comfortable [paying over the odds]. I don’t like to pay a lot of money. If a player warrants us paying [lots of] money, then it’s right. But for a medium player, it’s right only to pay the right price, not £20m-30m over. That’s not right. The money is not mine, but I don’t like it the same. I don’t find it right.”
The manager remains in regular contact with the director Marina Granovskaia and the technical director Michael Emenalo over potential incoming and outgoing transfers. “It’s difficult to speak about discussions I have with the club, but we are awaiting the right solution to improve Chelsea,” said Conte. “We need to sign some players. We are now a few players down in defence – we only have a few – but we are working together, me and the club, to find the right solution.
“We must be patient and wait. Not only at Chelsea, too: I have seen this with the other clubs. It’s very difficult to have a ‘good market’, but now it’s a real situation for all of us. We must live with it and find a solution. We have two weeks before the end of the transfer market. If we can improve this squad, we want to improve it.”
There is interest, too, in the Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodríguez and Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, though hopes of securing the Real Madrid forward, Álvaro Morata, have long since faded.
The other departures have largely been on loan, with both Loïc Rémy and Juan Cuadrado likely to join the ranks leaving Stamford Bridge before the deadline on 31 August. Rémy, who scored in midweek against Brentford B for a Chelsea side made up of players available for loan, may join Crystal Palace and is available for £9m on a permanent basis, or for a £3m loan fee.
Cuadrado’s situation is arguably more complicated given Conte had made great efforts to recall him from his loan at Juventus with a view to integrating him into the first-team in south-west London. However, the Colombian remains unsettled and is expected to return to Italy, with Juve and Milan having already expressed interest in securing him on a similar 12-month deal with a view to a permanent transfer.
“When it comes to transfer policy, I speak with the club,” added Conte. “I have a contact every day and, I repeat, we must search to find the right solutions for the market, to buy and to sell. For Cuadrado we are waiting on the situation. It must become more clear about his position. Now he’s Chelsea’s player. Today he had training with us. We will see.”
This article was written by Dominic Fifield, for The Guardian on Friday 19th August 2016 22.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010