Monday 24 July 2017

'It is not always about who spends more money who wins'

Chelsea boss Conte takes swipe at Manchester clubs as Blues bid to extend lead

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hopes his team can extend their Premier League lead tonight. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hopes his team can extend their Premier League lead tonight. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

Matt Law

Antonio Conte has taken a swipe at Manchester City and Manchester United by claiming his Chelsea team are proving that spending the most money does not guarantee success.

The Chelsea head coach also claimed that winning the Premier League title - and potentially a league and FA Cup double - would be the best achievement of his career in management.

Conte won three successive Serie A titles at Juventus, but rates the Premier League trophy as more difficult to win because of the level of competition and the resources Chelsea's rivals possess.

Chelsea have previously been accused of buying success during the Roman Abramovich era, but they were comfortably outspent by the Manchester teams this season.

Investing

City will finish the season trophyless, despite splashing out almost £200 million on new signings, while United are still unsure of Champions League qualification after investing around £150m in their squad.

Chelsea spent around £110m on their squad last summer, but managed to recoup more than half of that - £60m - on Oscar alone in January.

Conte's side have the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points over Tottenham Hotspur for at least 24 hours by beating Southampton tonight.

"I think this season it's very important to understand that it's not always about who spends more money who wins," said Conte. "Otherwise, in this league, this season the name of the team wasn't Chelsea or Tottenham or Arsenal or Liverpool. You understand?

"I think in every situation it's important to find the right balance. If you have to spend money, try and spend that money in the right way to take players with the right characteristics for your idea of football."

Conte has made it clear that he wants to make significant additions to his squad at the end of the season, with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku among Chelsea's top targets.

But asked if he expected City and United to spend more than Chelsea again, Conte replied: "Yes, like every year. You've seen the past. You can see every season they spend a lot of money.

"I don't want to go into the situation of the other teams, other clubs, other managers. Every single club decides their own strategy. But, if you ask me, this season isn't the only season the Manchester clubs have spent a lot of money.

"Look at the past. It's normal for them. It's right for them to do this, to reinforce their teams, if they think this is the right way to win the title.

"But for us this season is very important because we are trying to build something important for the present, to put the foundations down and be strong [and] stronger for the future.

"And to build, also, slowly, slowly to become a real power - a real power in the future."

While United spent £89m on Paul Pogba, who has struggled to consistently show his best form, Chelsea signed N'Golo Kante for a relative bargain price of £30m and the midfielder was voted the PFA Player of the Year on Sunday evening.

"N'Golo was a target, and we were very pleased to reach this target in our transfer market," said Conte. "I think we spent this money in the right way.

"Sometimes, you can see players with great talent, with great talent to score goals, these players are important. But if you trust in an idea of football and you trust in the team, it's important to have a squad with talent, but also with people like N'Golo - very strong to win the ball, to fight and work hard for the team. You must be pleased with this."

Conte believes this is a crucial week for Chelsea and the title race, with games against Southampton and Everton. On the subject of whether or not winning the title in his first season in English football would be his finest achievement, Conte was unequivocal.

"Yes, for sure," he said. "For me, for the players, for the club. I think, now, to win the title in England is a great achievement. A top achievement for the coach, the players and the club. To win in England these days is not easy.

"To win this league is difficult. I repeat, we must be proud in our work. We must know that now it's a good season.

"It will remain a good season - but we want it to become a great season, a fantastic season."

Chelsea v Southampton, live, Sky Sports 1, 7.45

Irish Independent

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