Antonio Conte has revealed Chelsea came within inches of signing Romelu Lukaku and Virgil Van Dijk ahead of his second season in charge at the club.
The current Inter Milan boss won the Premier League in the 2016-17 season – his first campaign at Stamford Bridge – and wanted to build a team that could be competitive in the years to come with further summer additions.
But he failed to sign either striker Lukaku or centre-back Van Dijk three years ago despite maintaining regular contact with them, and was sacked a year later in spite of winning the 2018 FA Cup after the Blues finished outside the top four.
Speaking to The Telegraph however, Conte insists things may have been very different had the then Everton and Southampton players joined his side, and believes their current status at Inter and Liverpool shows he was vindicated in his decision to go after them.
‘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.’
Lukaku ended up joining Manchester United that summer, while Van Dijk would seal a £75million move to Anfield six months before Conte lost his job at Chelsea.
Conte was back in a post last year after he joined Lukaku at Inter and led them to second in the Serie A table and finishing just a point behind champions Juventus.
He also suffered heartbreak in the Europa League final defeat to Sevilla, but is determined to put that right this campaign and in seasons to follow.
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