Thursday 13 December 2018

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte says club will have the final say on transfers

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte
Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte

Mark Critchley

Antonio Conte, the Chelsea manager, insisted on Saturday that the club will have the final say on any potential new signings when the transfer window reopens in January.

Conte is hoping to fight on both domestic and European fronts in the new year, with his side chasing a top-four Premier League finish and facing a Champions League knockout tie against Barcelona.

The Italian has just 19 senior players at disposal, however, and his squad’s limitations were exposed on Saturday when, without suspended first-choice striker Alvaro Morata to call upon, they were held to a goalless draw by Sam Allardyce’s Everton.

Despite a clear need for reinforcements, Conte kept his cards close to his chest while discussing potential January business at Goodison Park on Saturday, perhaps with the club’s frustrating summer window in mind.

Chelsea lost out on several priority targets to rival clubs during those months - with Romelu Lukaku, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fernando Llorente all moving elsewhere after momentarily looking likely to end up at Stamford Bridge.

Conte was understood to be frustrated at missing out on so many players during those months but suggested on Saturday that the club’s transfer process remains the same as in the summer.

“I think this consideration must be done with the club,” he said when asked about January signings. “It is not important to say this with the press, I must say this to the club in the right moment in the right place. I will give my opinion when I speak with the club, I will tell them.

“In the end the club has always the last word – like in the summer, like last season, and it will be the same in the window in January,” he added. “Then we will divide the responsibility with me and with the club. Not only the club, not only with me… we will do it [take joint responsibility for transfers] together.”

Conte added: “It is not the right time now to talk about who we will sign. I am very happy to work with these players and I repeat after this type of performance I can only talk good about every single player. The effort was great.

“The situation is simple, I am very happy to work with my players, and if then the squad is big enough to play all these games in all competitions, then only time will tell.”

Conte conceded the Premier League title after Chelsea’s defeat to West Ham United earlier this month and draw at Goodison Park on Saturday saw the reigning champions fall 16 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.

Chelsea still remain some way clear of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal but their failure to win at Everton only heightened the sense that they should now be more concerned with qualifying for next year’s Champions League than staging an unlikely title defence.

Ahead of a meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day, Conte insisted after the final whistle that he is not currently looking over his shoulder at Jürgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger’s respective sides.

“I’m not worried because when you see your team produce such a big effort as we did at Everton, then I am happy,” he said. “Usually you win this type of game, but I am not worried, because we played really well. I like the attitude and effort of my players.

“This league is not simple,” he added. “You have to fight to win it and for the Champions' League places, you have to fight for that.”

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