Chelsea Transfer News: Antonio Conte Reportedly Wanted Alexis Sanchez Deal

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2018

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte, center, talks with Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez at the end of the English League Cup semifinal, first leg, soccer match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Antonio Conte reportedly wanted Chelsea to revisit failed summer deals for Alexis Sanchez, Virgil van Dijk and Alex Sandro during the January transfer window, per Dominic Fifield of the Guardian.

Instead, the Blues came through the winter window having signed AS Roma wing-back Emerson Palmieri, Everton midfielder Ross Barkley and striker Olivier Giroud from Premier League rivals Arsenal.

Chelsea's recruitment policy has been a sore subject for Conte for months. The head coach has been vocal about his apparent lack of say regarding signings, comments which have put him at odds with the club's hierarchy, according to Fifield:

"There have been publicly aired criticisms and challenges of authority for weeks, even while the team extended their unbeaten run, if not always with victories. His suggestions that executives, including the director Marina Granovskaia, dictate recruitment over his head had hit a nerve to prompt a reminder from on high, after elimination from the Carabao Cup, that he should stop implying he had no input into transfer policy."

This isn't the first time Conte's public critique of club policy has annoyed Chelsea. In January, Michael Kelleher of Sky Sports News reported the Blues were "increasingly frustrated" by his complaints after the west London club lost to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final.

Conte's willingness to attack Chelsea's transfer strategy has reportedly angered members of the club's hierarchy.
Conte's willingness to attack Chelsea's transfer strategy has reportedly angered members of the club's hierarchy.ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Fifield noted how Conte is under mounting pressure after Wednesday's humbling 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.

In fact, David Woods and Paul Brown of the Daily Star quoted an unnamed source close to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich who doesn't expect Conte to avoid the sack.

The manager expected a greater statement of intent after guiding Chelsea to the league title in 2016/17, his first season in charge. Conte's squad set a record with 30 league wins en route to the title, before losing 2-1 to a Sanchez-inspired Arsenal in the FA Cup final.

Conte had "identified Sanchez as a priority target" ahead of last summer, according to Metro's Sean Kearns. Chelsea were linked with the Chile international again back in January, per Sky Sports News.

However, Sanchez eventually signed for the Blues' Premier League rivals, Manchester United, on a free transfer. As for Conte's other prime targets, Netherlands international centre-back Virgil van Dijk joined Liverpool in a deal worth £75 million.

Sanchez was one of Conte's preferred targets before he joined United in January.
Sanchez was one of Conte's preferred targets before he joined United in January.Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Sandro remains at Juventus, despite Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror reporting in October how Chelsea were ready to pay £60 million for the left-back.

It may look as though the Blues got the backup options to their main targets, but Conte's gripes about the club's transfer policy don't quite hold up.

Since last season, Chelsea have also signed Roma centre-back Antonio Rudiger, Torino wing-back Davide Zappacosta, Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, AS Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater.

Rudiger and Zappacosta, like Palmieri, both come from Conte's old stomping ground, Serie A, so it's difficult to believe the former Juventus and Italy manager didn't at least offer a tacit approval of these signings.

Similarly, Conte worked alongside Morata with the Bianconeri, so he surely knew the qualities the Spain international would bring to Chelsea's forward line.

Giroud and Palmieri weren't Conte's top targets.
Giroud and Palmieri weren't Conte's top targets.GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

While Chelsea have made significant investment during Conte's second season, the bigger question is have they spent wisely enough for a club expected to defend the title and compete for the UEFA Champions League?

Considering the Blues slipped to fourth after losing to the Cherries, the answer would be no. Chelsea are also in modest form ahead of their last-16 doubleheader against Barcelona.

Conte may have wanted different players, but his club hasn't been afraid to spend. The challenge for the Italian remains fashioning a winning formula from the players he's been given.

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