Selling clubs know they are getting more and more desperate to buy and so the price goes up as each knot turns in Conte’s stomach
ANTONIO CONTE was conscious of being seen smiling and joking at Chelsea’s training ground yesterday as his team returned to work after a shock start to the season.
Business as usual is the well-worn phrase at Cobham when the hard times hit.
Not even Conte could have expected to be struck so hard, so soon by a surprise defeat at home to Burnley and with such serious collateral damage with so many players now suspended for Sunday’s key game at Tottenham.
There is “anxiety” in the home of the Premier League champions. Anxiety at the way Conte’s game plan unravelled so quickly last Saturday with his unruly players.
And a wider sense of worry at the trickle of transfers instead of the predicted flood.
Conte is having to come to terms with the Chelsea way when it comes to buying players.
And that is agonisingly slow. Too slow for a manager like Conte who did not switch off his phone or his brain during his summer holiday.
Conte had his mobile beside him on a sun lounger throughout his break in Sardinia and even took players’ medical records away with him to study in the sun – a worrying sign of his unrelenting commitment.
Chelsea maintain that their lofty position in club football means they only shop at the high end of the market. More Harrods than Lidl.
Consequently, selling clubs hold out for longer to screw a few more quid out of owner Roman Abramovich, agents talk the talk to play rivals off against each other and get the best deal for their clients – and themselves.
And all this slows the market down apparently. After all, who rushes round Claridges the way you whizz the trolley round Aldi?
Conte has managed Juventus. A club with far more pedigree than Chelsea over time. But during his era between 2011 and 2014 they were not in the same spending league.
Gonzalo Higuain’s record-busting arrival for around £82million coming a couple of years after Conte had left the “Old Lady”.
But for a manager obsessed with winning, patience is not part of the vocabulary. And like any coach Conte wants his new players in now.
Danny Drinkwater is the oldest of his main targets at 27 years old. And others like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are important players at their respective clubs with the season now underway.
Conte has declared himself in favour of plans to shut the transfer window before the first game of the season to avoid repetitions of the situation Chelsea now find themselves in.
Up against it already. Selling clubs know they are getting more and more desperate to buy and so the price goes up as each knot turns in Conte’s stomach.
This is what is causing the friction in the boardroom at Stamford Bridge. Two years ago it got to the point where Chelsea’s two purchases on transfer deadline day were curious deals for Reading defender Michael Hector and for centre half Papy Djilobodji.
Then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was sacked four months later while eating his Christmas dinner at the training ground.
Conte has just signed a new two-year contract worth £20m so if it comes to it at least he has a decent insurance policy.