The Italian was the head coach of the Blues for two years and won the Premier League title in his very first campaign in English football. However, during his second season, he failed to replicate his heroics and ended the campaign in with a disappointing fifth-place finish and an FA Cup.
The 51-year-old left the club in the summer of 2018 and was replaced by his compatriot and former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri. Conte did not get a number of his key targets, including this superstar duo, who he says he specifically asked for.
Chelsea were close to Van Dijk and Lukaku, claims Conte
Speaking on the two primary targets that Chelsea missed out on during his time at the club, and how they 'lost momentum' after these failures, Conte explained in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with The Telegraph;
"I asked for two players and we [Chelsea] were very, very close after we won the league. 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."
The Inter Milan tactician added,
"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."
Conte made no secret of his desire to work with Romelu Lukaku, and was close to sealing his signature while at Everton. The Belgian ultimately signed for Manchester United from the Merseyside club for a staggering fee of £75m, and as a consequence of missing out on the striker, Chelsea then went on to sign Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.
However, Conte did get his wish as Inter purchased Lukaku from United two years later for a club-record fee, and the Belgian repaid their faith in him with an absolutely surreal debut campaign.
Speaking on the former Chelsea striker, Conte expressed;
"For sure, it would have been a different story if I was the coach of Romelu. Romelu is an incredible player, and he has a lot of space for improvement. In one year at Inter, he had a lot of improvement because he wants to learn, and I think I am a teacher. But he can continue to improve to become one of the best strikers in the world."
Van Dijk, on the other hand, left to Liverpool for a then-world record fee for a defender of £75m and fired the Reds to the Premier League the UEFA Champions League.
Also read: FIFA World Rankings: Top 10 football nationsPublished 17 Nov 2020, 22:50 IST