Antonio Conte’s body language said more than his words when he was quizzed on the decision to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United.
Matic swapped Premier League champions Chelsea for the opportunity to reunite with Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford in a move reported to be worth £40million on Monday.
It was put to Conte ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield match with Arsenal that the transfer had helped to strengthen a potential title rival.
After a brief pause, the stony-faced Italian replied: “You have to ask to the club about this.”
The response hinted at the possibility that Conte was not in agreement with the call and he will certainly hope there are no more unwanted departures in the transfer window.
With Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain completed on Thursday, Barcelona’s war chest has been boosted to the tune of around £198m and Chelsea star Eden Hazard – who will miss this weekend’s match at Wembley with an ankle injury – has been linked.
However, Conte is determined not only to keep hold of his top players, but also to bolster what he feels is a small squad.
“We are trying to buy the players, not to sell,” he said. “Otherwise the number is always less and we are in trouble. I think these are rumours and Eden is very happy to stay with us, to play with Chelsea and to recover from his injury and to start the season with us.
“It’s important for me that the club knows my opinions about the number that we need. I think it’s not right to tell this through the press.
The lads are out training at Cobham as preparations continue for Arsenal! pic.twitter.com/6o496OAaQ1
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 4, 2017
“The most important thing is the club knows my opinions and they are trying to do the best for our team, for our squad. Now we have to wait. We must have patience and then to try to improve our team, our squad.”
Neymar’s world-record move would have left many clubs feeling they cannot compete with that level of spending, but Conte can see why the Brazil star commanded such a sizeable fee.
He said: “It’s a difficult topic. I think Neymar is one of the best players in the world and for sure all these type of players finish their career in the same team, otherwise if they decide to change we must be ready to accept this kind of money.
“For a normal player now you must spend 40-50million for a player. If you want to buy a top player you must be ready to spend ths money. It’s a difficult, difficult topic and for sure it’s impressive. It’s an impressive amount of money, £200million. But if PSG is able to do this, why not?
“For us it’s very important to try to improve our squad in the numerical aspect. We have a small squad and I think only one player is not enough to improve our team. We need more players. Not of the top level like Neymar, but more players to improve our quality.”
Conte confirmed Tiemoue Bakayoko (knee) would join Hazard on the sidelines this weekend for a game that will afford Chelsea the chance to avenge May’s FA Cup final defeat to the Gunners.
“For sure it was a pity to lose the game, to lose the FA Cup final against Arsenal after a really great season for us,” he added.
“Now there is another game and we know very well that Arsenal are a strong team and we are expecting a very difficult game.
“We want to try to start the season with a win, but it’s the same for Arsenal.
“Friendly games are ended for us, this is an official game, this is the first trophy of the season. For sure we want to play a really good game with a good intensity and also to prepare for the start of the season.”
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