Antonio Conte has a very difficult job on his hands at Chelsea Football Club.
The Italian, Jose Mourinho’s permanent successor at Stamford Bridge, must return a club that finished 10th in the Premier league last season into a title contender.
And he’s competing against a Manchester United side with a seemingly endless budget and a Manchester City team managed by arguably the best coach in football.
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Conte, who recently left the Italian national team, has never faced a challenge like it.
If he’s to return Chelsea to the summit, he’s going to have to get the best out of the players that let Mourinho down last season. Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard weren’t at their best, and the Portuguese was sacked as a result.
And Conte has already laid down the marker to his players: reach the incredible heights of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Hazard was crowned Footballer of the Year in 2014-15 after helping the Blues to Premier League glory but last campaign was one to forget for the Belgian. He was shorn of confidence and had to wait until late April to score his first league goal.
So he’ll be delighted to hear that Conte reckons he and his teammates can reach the level of football’s elite players.
“Chelsea have players who can become top, top, top players,” the Italian said, per the Mirror. “These players with work can still improve a lot.
“Because now we have players, fantastic players, who have great talent but in this moment the world doesn’t think they are the same level as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo or Paul Pogba.
“But in our squad there are players who, with work, can improve a lot and reach this level. I’m sure about this.
“It’s important that the players understand they must work to show that 'Now I am a top player, but I want to become top, top, top, top and want to stay there’.
“The mentality is important. The heart is important. Patience and the will to improve is very important. And in this case it’s important for the manager to take the best players and try to improve them.
“And last season it was incredible, not only for Hazard but for other players also. It’s important for us to recover Hazard in the best condition: technique, tactical, physical, overall and with the good mentality.”
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