Antonio Conte has finally broken his silence on his time at Chelsea, as he’s spoken about his two seasons in charge of the Premier League club.
Conte, 51, left Chelsea amid plenty of unrest in the summer of 2018 as he was replaced by countryman Maurizio Sarri. In his first season in England, 2016-17, he led Chelsea to an improbable Premier League title in a 3-4-3 formation and in his second he won the FA Cup before his acrimonious departure.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Conte delivered some intriguing details about his time at Chelsea, including which players he wanted to sign, his relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, why Diego Costa left and how he hopes to return to the Premier League one day but is loving life in charge of Inter Milan.
He wanted to sign Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk:
“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. We were in contact every day and I always said that with these two players we would improve my team by 30 per cent.
“I think maybe we lost the momentum to bring Chelsea at the very top and then to stay for many years. 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.”
Why Diego Costa left Chelsea:
“It’s right always to keep good memories and I prefer to keep good memories also about Diego Costa because we won together a league title in an incredible season. But, for sure, the truth, we know the truth. The player, his agent, the club and I. We know how many times he asked to go away to Atletico Madrid at the start of the season, during the season to go to China, and at the end of the season to join, again, Atletico Madrid.
“This is the truth and, honestly, in my career I want to have players who are concentrated on my team and not to consider my team a second choice. My team must be the first choice. It was an incredible season and I managed, together with the club, the Diego Costa situation in the best possible way. But, in the end, the truth was only that the player wanted to leave many times to Atletico Madrid and during the season to go to China because he wanted the best contract.”
His relationship with Roman Abramovich:
“Sometimes, you can agree because the results are negative and sometimes, you don’t understand why. But I think you must accept and I keep good memories with Chelsea, the club, with Mr Abramovich, who is a very passionate man for his football. It was incredible, especially in my first season, because he was very, very close to me, asking about my football and my ideas.
“Many times he came to the training ground to meet me and I remember he wanted to watch the video about our game and about our preparation – the way we wanted to face the opponent. I think in my career, he was one of the most passionate men about football and I keep good memories about him and about the club, an important club in the world.”
On a return to the Premier League:
“I have this season and another year of my contract at Inter and I started a project here, and, honestly, I want to continue this project and stay for many years because we are building the bases.
“But, for sure, in my future, I want to come back to England to have another experience because I enjoyed my stay there a lot and to breathe the atmosphere in England. For me, for my family, I’d like to one day come back to England because we lived an incredible experience and we want to continue to have another experience in England.”