Antonio Conte has revealed what Roman Abramovich said to him during their first meeting, and sadly, it wasn’t: “Jose Mourinho is a mentally delicate narcissist; a completely vile human.”
“At the first meeting he told me: ‘I want an identity for the team, the others have to recognise us’,”
“He wants to be more involved. The week we lost at Arsenal he had been here three straight days to see training. He was talking to me.
“We are planning the future. This year we had a base of 13-14 good players. Next year with the Champions League we have to increase in numbers and in quality.
“The base is there, now we must put the cherries on top.”
Antonio Conte speaking to Corriere della Sera
Roman Abramovich’s dynasty at Chelsea has been hugely successful, several Premier League titles, multiple European trophies and a few League and FA Cups thrown in for good measure, too. However, the Blues owner has always craved an identity, style and critical acclaim from Chelsea’s peers.
The wealthy Russian longs for Chelsea to have an association with Arsenal’s swashbuckling football from their Invincible days or Tottenham Hotspur’s current high energy, exciting football under Mauricio Pochettino.
Under Antonio Conte, this is the closest Abramovich has come to achieving the final piece of everything he wanted to do, when buying the west London club in the summer of 2003.
Chelsea’s explosive and devastating counter-attacking football has seen Conte unlock Eden Hazard – although you still feel there’s a couple more levels in the Belgium international – and has saved Pedro’s Chelsea career, whilst making Marcos Alonso seem so much more than an unwanted signing and turning Victor Moses into one of the league’s best full-backs.
It’s not quite there yet, though, with Arsenal’s throwback performance to the days of Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, in the FA Cup Final, highlighting that no team – or manager – can take anything for granted.
Chelsea, rather surprisingly, still need close to a summer squad overhaul.