According to Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star Sunday, the Italian will take the job at Stamford Bridge ahead of next term, with interim manager Guus Hiddink set to depart. And it’s stated that the former Juventus boss is already pondering how to best reshape the Blues' defence.
Hetherington claims Stones, valued at £50 million by the Toffees, is still a “major target” for the Blues. But Conte apparently prefers his former player from his days managing the Bianconeri.
“Conte is not convinced about Stones, who Chelsea tried to sign three times in last summer’s transfer window,” writes Hetherington. “Italy boss Conte sees Juventus' Bonucci, 28, as good value, with the Juventus defender valued at £25 million—half the fee for Stones if Everton can be persuaded to sell.”
Here is a look at how the two players compare so far this season in league matches alongside Chelsea skipper John Terry, whose contract with the club is set to expire at the end of the campaign:
|Apps (Sub)||28 (1)||22 (2)||22|
|Tackles per game||0.9||1.5||0.9|
|Interceptions per game||2.5||1.7||1.6|
|Clearances per game||4.1||3.3||3.7|
|Blocks per game||0.3||1||0.7|
|Passing accuracy||87.1 %||88.9 %||90 %|
The longstanding captain announced earlier this year he was likely to leave the Blues after a storied spell with the football club, although nothing has been confirmed officially yet. Indeed, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones, the appointment of Conte could well be good news for Terry:
Regardless of whether the veteran defender stays or not, the centre-back positions are definitely an area in which Chelsea need to improve. Bonucci’s acquisition would go a long way to ensuring they’re much more solid.
The Juve man has blossomed into one of the finest defenders in world football in Turin. Alongside Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, Juve have a wonderful trio of centre-backs, of which Bonucci is arguably the most important; the 28-year-old is not only a forceful stopper, but a classy technician, able to distribute calmly and time tackles tremendously.
Sports journalist Jack Rathborn feels as though Bonucci is one of the best around in his position at the moment:
Is there a better centre-back in Europe in terms of technique than Bonucci, he's been brilliant tonight— Jack Rathborn (@JackRathborn) February 28, 2016
Stones could look to a player like the Italian for inspiration in his own game. While he’s nowhere near as accomplished as the Juventus man yet, the youngster is also a composed operator at the back, with calm passing and sharp instincts critical parts of his playing style.
At the moment, Stones is out of the Everton side following a poor run of form. The 21-year-old was excellent in the early parts of the season but is enduring the kind of lull that can affect any young player. Still, there are few denying his potential and, while £50 million is a massive amount, the defender could potentially be in place for the next decade for any suitor.
As former England striker Gary Lineker noted recently, when he’s on form, Stones can make a huge difference to a team:
Wonderful goal from Harry Kane. Just need to sort out the central defence. Need Stones to realise his potential. Ball player there is vital.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 26, 2016
Which player would be the better signing for Chelsea this summer?
Ultimately, it depends what Conte envisages for his tenure. To get Chelsea immediately back among the elite sides in England, then Bonucci is the logical choice; building for the long term, Stones may be the better option. Either way, with Terry’s future still uncertain, this is a section of the squad that needs to be replenished.
Neither Juventus nor Everton will be particularly easy to deal with for the Blues, though. The Italian champions will be far from keen on moving on their premier defender, especially given the advancing years of both Chiellini and Barzagli. The Toffees, while languishing in mid-table, showed just how stubborn they could be in rejecting a succession of bids for Stones last summer.