Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will reportedly give his new manager £130 million to rebuild the Blues squad this summer, with possible targets including Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal and Everton's John Stones.
According to an exclusive from Andrew Dillon in the Sun, Italy manager Antonio Conte is the "front-runner" to get the job, and talks with the former Juventus boss have been "planned," with Abramovich hoping the spending power will not only persuade Conte to take the job but also see him recruit four new star players.
According to football journalist Fabrizio Romano, the Blues will meet with Conte on Thursday—though they haven't given up on Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone, either:
Fabrizio Romano @FabrizioRomano
Antonio Conte will have a new meeting with #Chelsea, on thursday; he's always in talks as new #CFC manager; Simeone too. No one more.2016-2-23 23:01:38
Chelsea have fallen well short of their usual standards this season—which saw Jose Mourinho sacked in December just seven months after winning the Premier League title—and find themselves in 12th place.
After doing relatively little noteworthy recruitment last summer, the Blues will likely be hoping to bring in marquee reinforcements, as Dillon indicates.
With Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas both struggling for much of the season and the uninspiring John Obi Mikel their first-choice backup, a new central midfielder is surely on the cards—which could be where Vidal comes in, with Dillon reporting the Blues scouted him on Tuesday in the Champions League.
The dynamic, box-to-box star is still in his first season at Bayern Munich but has drawn criticism both on and off the pitch, as football writers Stefan Bienkowski, Raphael Honigstein and Clark Whitney demonstrate:
Stefan Bienkowski @SBienkowski
Hard to find a defender of Arturo Vidal's form at Bayern Munich these days. @honigstein summing it perfectly, here: https://t.co/4Bi886NI3Z2016-2-9 17:06:44
Clark Whitney @Mr_Bundesliga
Vidal signing appeased Bayern fans who were angry about Schweinsteiger sale. But by now it's clear that Arturo is no Basti. Toxic attitude2016-2-3 09:40:24
Indeed, because of this, journalist David Amoyal believes Vidal could be on the move again this summer:
David Amoyal @DavidAmoyal
@CAffective he's really struggled at Bayern and has been heavily criticized for his effort- he wasn't even supposed to start tonight2016-2-23 23:20:01
Conte managed Vidal successfully at Juventus for three years, so he could help mitigate any potential attitude problems the Chilean may bring to Stamford Bridge. Further, his arrival could tempt Vidal into pursuing a move in order to reunite with his former manager.
Despite the criticism he's received, Vidal has still been a fairly effective contributor in Bavaria. To go along with three goals and seven assists in all competitions, according to Squawka, he has won 48 tackles and 32 headed duels in 22 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern as well as creating 39 chances.
Further, per WhoScored.com, while Vidal may not quite have the level of technique expected from a key player in a Pep Guardiola side, he's still highly comfortable in possession:
Arturo Vidal: Completed more passes (130) vs Darmstadt than Darmstadt managed as a whole (114) #FCBD982016-2-20 16:39:49
Vidal would be able to provide a level of steel and tenacity that's missing from Chelsea's midfield, and his physicality see him fit in well in the Premier League.
As for Stones, as Dillon notes, a centre-back is also on the agenda, with captain John Terry set to depart in the summer and Kurt Zouma enduring a lengthy layoff through injury.
After pursuing him so doggedly last summer, it can be expected that Chelsea return for him anew this year. However, they could face stiff competition from Manchester City, as the Guardian's Dominic Fifield notes, per BT Sport Football:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
"John Stones feels like a shoo-in!" @domfifield says the @Everton defender would be perfect for Guardiola's @MCFC. https://t.co/hGwoaAZpVz2016-2-14 15:15:05
The ball-playing defender is still learning his trade and making mistakes along the way but, with polish and experience, has the talent and potential to become an exceptional Premier League player in the future—not in the same mould as Terry, but a worthy candidate as his long-term replacement.
Everton have already proved admirably resilient to Chelsea's advances, but with each passing summer, it could well get harder and harder to keep him at Goodison Park.
The saga looks set to run on for some time, and if City should get involved, that will only increase.