Antonio Conte takes fresh swipe at Chelsea board over Liverpool, Man Utd transfer failures

Chelsea were close to signing both Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk while Antonio Conte was at the helm at Stamford Bridge, the now-Inter Milan boss has confirmed.

Chelsea were eager to improve their squad in the summer of 2017, with Conte keen to replicate their Premier League title-winning success from the season prior.

Conte wanted to bolster his defensive options while adding more firepower up front at the same time.

Having signed N’Golo Kante the year before, Chelsea had walked the league and lost just five times.

But their 33 goals conceded was clearly an issue for Conte, who wanted a new centre-back to be brought in.

At the time, Southampton were reluctant to let Van Dijk leave, and had valued him highly after an impressive breakout season for the Saints.

And Chelsea were ultimately unable to talk them into selling, instead being forced to pay out for Davide Zappacosta and Antonio Rudiger for a combined £54million.

Conte’s Chelsea also found themselves in a bidding war with Manchester United for former striker Lukaku.

At the time, the Belgian striker – who left Stamford Bridge for Everton in a £28m deal – was on fire at Goodison Park and worth a whopping £75m.

But Chelsea again wouldn’t fork out, and instead brought in Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid in a £59m deal.

The Spaniard would last just 18 months at Stamford Bridge before being sent back to Atletico on an initial loan, which was made permanent the following summer.

But things could have been different for the Blues, as Conte revealed to The Telegraph that he was in constant communication with both of his top transfer targets.

“I asked for two players and we were very, very close after we won the league,” Conte said.

“One player was Romelu Lukaku, the second player was Virgil van Dijk.

“These two players were very, very close.

“We were in contact every day and I always said that with these two players we would improve my team by 30 per cent.”

Conte was finally able to sign Lukaku after he took over at Inter Milan, with the striker scoring 34 goals in 51 games across all competitions.

And the Italian boss insisted he feels he was right to target him, and has also been vindicated in his pursuit of Van Dijk.

Conte continued: “I think maybe we lost the momentum to bring Chelsea at the very top and then to stay for many years.

“It was a pity that it didn’t happen and Romelu is showing with Inter that my idea was right and also Van Dijk has shown with Liverpool that my idea was right for the club.”

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