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Virgil van Dijk came very close to signing for Chelsea before Liverpool move

Virgil van Dijk

Antonio Conte identified two crucial signings that would have kept Chelsea challenging for titles.

Having won the Premier League in his debut season in England, Antonio Conte saw Chelsea fall to fifth the following term and he was sacked after two years at Stamford Bridge.

But it might have been so different if Conte’s transfer wishes had been granted as it’s emerged that the Italian pinpointed Romelu Lukaku, then at Everton, as well as Virgil van Dijk, then at Southampton, as the two players required to maintain Chelsea’s success.

Antonio Conte

“I asked for two players and we were very, very close after we won the league,” the Inter Milan manager told the Daily Telegraph.

“One player was Romelu Lukaku, the second player was Virgil van Dijk, and these two players were very, very close. We were in contact every day and I always said that with these two players we would improve my team by 30 per cent.

Virgil van Dijk

“I think maybe we lost the momentum to bring Chelsea at the very top and then to stay for many years. It was a pity that it didn’t happen and Romelu is showing with Inter that my idea was right and also Van Dijk has shown with Liverpool that my idea was right for the club.”

Lukaku, of course, made 15 appearances for Chelsea before he moved to Everton and subsequently Manchester United.

Romelu Lukaku

Van Dijk, meanwhile, has proved to be pivotal in Liverpool’s success in recent seasons after his 2018 switch from the Saints.

And while Conte likely still laments missing out on Van Dijk, he is currently enjoying working with Lukaku at Inter, where the Belgian centre-forward has already scored 41 goals in 57 games for the Serie A side.

“For sure, it would have been a different story if I was the coach of Romelu,” Conte added.

“Romelu is an incredible player and he has a lot of space for improvement. In one year at Inter, he had a lot of improvement because he wants to learn and I think I am a teacher. But he can continue to improve to become one of the best strikers in the world.”

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