After weeks of speculation, Chelsea finally let the worst kept secret in European football out of the bag on Monday as they named Antonio Conte as their next manager. The suave Italian will succeed Guus Hiddink when his interim spell at the club comes to an end in a few months’ time and will be tasked with getting the Blues back into the mix for Champions League qualification and title challenges after a disastrous 2015/16.
Naturally, with the Italy coach – who will relocate to west London at the end of EURO 2016 – having so much on his plate, he’ll be given cash to spend and, potentially, free-reign over the players he wants, so there have been plenty of links swirling around in recent weeks.
We at FootballFanCast Towers decided to collate TEN of the biggest and most exciting potential targets and ask the question: who do Chelsea fans want the most? Here are the results, and it seems that Juventus should be worried!
Among the vast array of Serie A names swirling around the rumour mill amid all the Conte speculation of the past few weeks, Roma’s Pjanic has been a prominent one. The Bosnia & Herzegovina international is known for his playmaking skills in the middle of the pitch, and with Cesc Fabregas’ form having dropped off a particularly jagged cliff, it’s easy to see why the Italian may want the pass-master.
Alas, reports suggest he might be worth north of £30m, with is a huge chunk of the budget Conte can expect without any form of European football. But, the fans want him, and, judging by the video above, it’s pretty easy to see why!
Pjanic’s Roma midfield partner Nainggolan may approach the game in a different manner, but he’s also captures Blues fans’ imaginations. The Belgian is known for his combative nature and fierce will to win, which has made him a real cult hero in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico, even if his technical skills are, perhaps, not up there with rival holding midfielders.
Mooted as the man Conte wants well before his move to Chelsea was sealed, there’s plenty of fuel below the flame of this rumour, and if the Italian cannot get other names, fans may get their wish of seeing Nainggolan in the blue shirt.
A Chelsea target for what feels like an eternity, links with Griezmann prove that Conte’s scouting plans have gone beyond looking back at Serie A. The France international is a particularly exciting attacking player, with his transformation since joining Atletico Madrid from Real Sociedad having been a stunning one. Initially a flying winger, Griezmann is now used in a central, striking role for the bulk of his playing time, and has responded with 41 league goals since the start of last season – although this gets overlooked due to the superhuman efforts of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga.
A potential replacement for Eden Hazard? It remains an option, and one Chelsea fans are seeming open to.
Now we’re getting to the exciting stage of this list. It’s fair to say that any set of supporters on the planet would love to have Vidal storming through the middle of the pitch, and Chelsea fans are certainly no different. The Chile international is, arguably, the best box-to-box midfielder on the planet, combining tenacity, stamina and technical prowess – it’s no coincidence that he won four Serie A’s on the spin and is set to scoop the Bundesliga title at the end of his debut season at Bayern Munich.
Conte coached him while at Juve, and reports claim that he’s one of the main names on his transfer hit-list in west London.
Aaaaaaaaand in at number one is Pogba. It was a pretty obvious choice to be fair, with the Frenchman having emerged as one of the best young midfielders in world football after being inexplicably overlooked at Manchester United. Conte himself took a chance on the former Red Devils trainee back in 2012 and has been largely credited with making him the player he is today – and that’s some player, by the way.
However, Pogba will cost around £80m… which may be a bit rich for even Roman Abramovich’s blood, given that Champions League football is off the menu for next season.
There were FIVE other names in the mix, too… See those who weren’t so popular on the next slide!
6 – Romelu Lukaku: A second coming for the Belgian doesn’t seem popular after he knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup!
7 – Leonardo Bonucci: Another of Conte’s former Juventus men, who could solve defensive concerns.
8 – Gonzalo Higuain: We though the top scorer in any of Europe’s top five leagues this season may be more popular…
9 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic: A great player, but at 34 he’s no long-term option…
10 – Edinson Cavani: We’re bored of Cavani rumours, too.