Antonio Conte reportedly believes he can fix Chelsea by making three key signings, as he wants the Blues to chase Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci, Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal and AS Roma's Radja Nainggolan when he becomes the club's new manager.
According to Paul Brown of the Daily Star, he's also keen to bring Juan Cuadrado and Andreas Christensen back from their loan deals, while a host of players are set to depart in order to free up the funds for several transfers. Radamel Falcao, Loic Remy and Pedro are likely to leave, but they won't be the only ones, per the report.
On Tuesday, the Italian football federation confirmed Conte will step down from his duties as national team manager after UEFA Euro 2016, opening the door for a potential move to Chelsea. Per BBC Sport, the 46-year-old said he wants to return to the club level, saying: "I feel that I must go back to being a coach in a club to have the opportunity of coaching every day."
Conte has worked with Bonucci and Vidal in the past, as the two became vital components of his team during his time with Juventus. Vidal moved to Bayern Munich last summer, while Bonucci is still with the Bianconeri.
The Italian centre-back has established himself as one of the top defenders in Europe over the last few seasons, and he received praise from Bayern manager Pep Guardiola after the 2-2 draw on Feb. 23 between both clubs in the UEFA Champions League.
The former Barcelona boss claimed Bonucci was one of his favourite players, but Juventus chief Beppe Marotta quickly moved to shoot down any transfer speculation, per Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia). Asked if the compliment worried him, he said:
No, if anything it makes us proud. However, Juventus don’t let players go unless they want to leave. We only just renewed Bonucci’s contract over the summer, he is very fond of us, and there’s no particular reason for his departure.
Obviously, the appreciation of a Coach like Guardiola is something to be proud of for us and the player.
Vidal has suffered through a difficult first season back in the Bundesliga, opening the door for a potential move during the summer. Bayern invested heavily in the Chilean, but German football expert Raphael Honigstein (via DW Sports' Stefan Bienkowski) believes he's yet to show he was worth it:
His performances have improved of late, but Vidal still looks like a poor fit for Guardiola's style of play. The Spaniard will be leaving Munich this summer, and it's unclear whether his replacement, Carlo Ancelotti, has any plans for Vidal.
At his best, the 28-year-old is one of the most dynamic midfielders in the world and is a perfect fit for Conte's philosophy. The Italian was never a particularly gifted technician during his playing days, but he found success through determination and hard work, and he looks for the same qualities in his players.
Vidal works tirelessly in defence, always positions himself to be a passing outlet and will run for days. On top of all of that, he's more than capable of scoring. Take a look at some of the highlights from his final season with Juventus:
Nainggolan is similar to Vidal in many ways, and a midfield combination of the two could be scary. The Belgium international was a bit of a late bloomer after spending the first years of his career with minor Italian clubs, but his star has risen quickly since he joined Roma.
The 27-year-old is a tenacious midfielder, who loves to battle opponents in the centre of the park and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Per WhoScored.com, his ability to win back possession is remarkable:
Radja Nainggolan: Only 2 players have won possession in the middle third of the pitch more times in the CL this season than Nainggolan (36)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 8, 2016
Brown claimed Conte is looking to bring the three-man defence with him to Stamford Bridge, and all three signings would certainly help the transition. Bonucci and Vidal are already familiar with the system, and Nainggolan plays with the type of energy needed to plug gaps in midfield and shield the back line.
Chelsea's shift to the 3-5-2 would hardly be a foregone conclusion. Conte never used the system until he was forced to due to injuries at Juventus, and his replacement, Massimiliano Allegri, has also used the formation, despite having no prior experience with it.
ESPN FC's David Amoyal thinks Conte is more likely to adapt to the Blues squad and build his system around the players available to him:
One of Conte's favorite sayings is that a coach is like a taylor who must adapt to fabric he has, he is not married to using 3 5 2— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) March 15, 2016
But even if that's the case, the Blues will likely be aggressive during the summer transfer window and hand their new manager the pieces he desires. Completing moves for Bonucci, Vidal and Nainggolan could prove tricky, as all three are unlikely to be available, but expect plenty of turnover at Stamford Bridge, regardless.