Chelsea were close to signing Liverpool hero and ex-Man Utd striker under Antonio Conte

  • Kobe Tong

Antonio Conte’s time at Chelsea was a tale of two seasons.

His debut campaign at Stamford Bridge couldn’t have gone any better, launching the Blues to one of the Premier League‘s greatest ever points tallies despite inheriting a team fresh from finishing 10th.

It was such an impressive championship-winning year that great things were expected of Conte’s sophomore effort, but even a late-in-the-day FA Cup win couldn’t paper over the 2017/18 cracks.

Conte’s Chelsea spell

The sales of Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic seemed to weigh heavy on the west London club as they failed to defend their league crown with a fifth-place finish that saw Conte’s head roll.

In fact, it was a messy divorce of club and manager with Conte taking his former employers to task legally and eventually leaving with what’s reported to be football’s biggest ever severance package.

And now, two years later, Conte has finally opened up about his Chelsea tenure in a revealing interview with the Telegraph that will make supporters wonder what could have been.


What could have been in 2017

In particular, the Italian, who now commands Inter Milan, provided insight on how the summer transfer window of 2017 could have seen them procure two truly world-class footballers.

Instead of the doomed moves for Tiemoue Bakayoko, Alvaro Morata and Danny Drinkwater, Conte was close to bagging Liverpool‘s Virgil van Dijk and Manchester United alumni Romelu Lukaku.

“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, and these two players were very, very close.


VVD and Lukaku were Chelsea-bound

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

“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.”

There’s no denying that the then Southampton and Everton stars would have been brilliant buys for Conte’s Chelsea and it got us burrowing down a hypothetical rabbit hole here at GIVEMESPORT.


How Chelsea could have lined up

In fact, we’ve decided to let our imaginations run wild by envisaging the world in which Chelsea signed Lukaku and Van Dijk for the 2017/18 season and what that would mean for their XI.

Intrigued, aren’t you? Well, be intrigued no longer as we unveil to you the 2017/18 Chelsea line-up that could have united to defend the Premier League title during Conte’s reign:


GIVEMESPORT’s Kobe Tong says

The big question here is: would this XI have regained the Premier League title?

In an ordinary year, I’d be inclined to say ‘yes’, but the 2017/18 campaign was no ordinary season with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City winning the trophy with a record-breaking 100 points.

I do believe that Van Dijk and Lukaku are mark-ups on David Luiz and Diego Costa, so you could expect Conte’s men to have challenged the Manchester clubs, but I still think they would have burnt out just like they did in real life. 


There was a real sense that the lightning-in-a-bottle feeling of Conte’s passion-filled first season and the game-changing switch to the 3-5-2 formation had deflated and withered by the time 2018 rolled around.

However, ifs and buts aside, regardless of Conte’s bout of second-season-syndrome, what he achieved at Chelsea in 2016/17 should never be forgotten and it was darn entertaining to watch.

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