Six Italy internationals Antonio Conte could take to Chelsea
Holly Thackeray | July 8, 2016
Six Azzurri picks for Conte to capture
Chelsea are not yet out of the blocks in the summer transfer window, having confirmed just one signing so far – that of Belgium international striker Michy Batshuayi.
Though, fans of the Stamford Bridge side (6/1 with Coral to lift the Premier League) should not worry about new coach Antonio Conte’s late arrival to the Blues bench after taking his inspirational Italy team to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, as the tactician perhaps already completed his scouting at the competition.
As expected, there have been a wave of Azzurri rumours linking Conte’s international charges with switches to West London. While some links may be a case of putting two and two together, what better way for the Italian manager to ensure loyalty and a bright start to life at the Bridge than by bringing in some of his most trusted lieutenants?
With that in mind, Coral writers have come up with a list of six Italian targets that Conte may want to take with him to the Premier League…
Emerging from the giant shadow of clubmate and compatriot Giorgio Chiellini, Bonucci arguably edged his Italy teammate as the Azzurri’s best centre back at the Euro tournament.
Though, the 29-year-old’s leadership at the back combined with determined defending and illustrations of his ball-playing talents, have made Bonucci one of this summer’s most sought after signings.
So, despite the defender’s three Scudetto successes under Conte at club level with Juventus from 2011-14, when he truly blossomed into an elite player, Chelsea may not have a clear run at the rearguard enforcer.
The Blues (6/4 favourites to be Bonucci’s next club) are but one club in a queue of Premier League teams trying to tempt the Italian to England if reports are to be believed.
While Conte could offer familiarity, trust and the trappings of London life, apparent rivals Manchester City (9/4) may offer more money and a chance at the Champions League – one big club trophy to have eluded the serial Serie A winner who finished as runner-up with Juve in 2015.
Manchester United (10/1) are another tipped to be chasing Bonucci but cannot offer more than the Europa League, and may not be able to fork out the mooted £43m deal City are said to be tabling if they are truly in pursuit of Paul Pogba.
Now this would be a contentious one, as way back at the beginning of Euro 2016, flexible full back Darmian was linked with trading Old Trafford for Stamford Bridge under Conte’s request, with Caesar Azpilicueta a potential player to swap the other way.
There would be little stock in these whispers were it not for the transfer history between the two clubs, as Argentine playmaker Juan Sebastian Veron was a previous high profile mover between them.
Yet the rivalry back then was nowhere near as fierce as now, with Chelsea’s former ‘Special One’ sitting in the Red Devils dugout. It could be a canny move for Darmian, who struggled in his first English campaign after putting in star turns for Torino and Italy in a myriad of roles including both defensive flanks, wing back and centre half.
For a tactician who likes to tinker as much as Conte, adaptable Darmian could be an ideal addition, especially if he intends to try out three at the back.
If Conte can’t prise a top-notch utility man such as Darmian away from the red half of Manchester, a more realistic option may be a move for Roma’s very own Florenzi.
Often played ahead of Darmian in France, Florenzi forced himself into the starting XI and proved a reliable performer on the flanks, though originally a central midfield specialist.
A notable moment came in a cracking clearance against Germany before Italy crashed out, and if it is passion Conte is looking for Florenzi could be his man.
The Giallorossi are already believed to have rebuffed Chelsea offers for Belgian box-to-box maestro Radja Nainngolan, however, so may be even more likely to resist a raid for one of their homegrown.
Conte could also require squad players, and few would suit his style more than surprise outstanding Euros performer Giaccherini, who followed his director’s tactics to a tee.
Still owned by Sunderland but coveted by recent loan team Bologna, a move to Stamford Bridge would be a shock at this late stage of his career, aged 31.
Though, quality for a low price can be hard to come by, and as one of Conte’s key men in France, displaying grit and guile, this player may have finally hit his peak.
“If Chelsea were to call, Chelsea would be a dream,” Giaccherini’s representative Furio Valcareggi told press, yet it should be noted Conte did offload the midfielder originally from Juve to Wearside. Is one tournament enough to change his mind?
Lazio appear to be jealously clinging on to star player Candreva, but it might be a tough ask after the Euros. Both Inter Milan and Lazio are said to be strongly after the 29-year-old wingman.
Surely the Eagles would prefer to sell abroad and avoid strengthening a direct rival to ease the bitter blow of losing their best attacking midfielder, which should put the Blues in the driving seat if Conte covets the playmaking wideman.
Chelsea could certainly use an extra sprinkling of stardust when Eden Hazard is off form, and now have two top notch strikers to supply in Batshuayi and Diego Costa. Classy Candreva’s ability to pump in quality crosses or cut inside for probing passes would be the ideal tonic against tough lower table teams.
Speaking of Costa, rumours persist that the sharpshooter could be out the Stamford Bridge door this summer after struggling last season under Jose Mourinho.
Batshuayi has been brought in but, should Costa be shipped off and if Conte intends to play two up top, there is certainly space for another frontman, one with a little more experience than the new Belgian addition.
Pelle would slot straight in as a proven Premier League poacher ahead of more expensive options such as Alvaro Morata, and may be easier to accommodate on the bench should Conte shuffle his pack.
Having excelled under his compatriot in France, Pelle’s regular supply of goals (23 over two Premier League terms) plus superb link-up play and selfless workrate could make him an intelligent attacking addition with Southampton looking likely to be plundered yet again this off-season.
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