Almost two-and-a-half years since his departure from Chelsea, Inter manager Antonio Conte has discussed his spell at the club for the very first time.
The Italian manager oversaw one of the most revolutionary tactical changes in a single Premier League season as his switch to a 3-4-3 – a system eventually copied by almost everyone in the division – helped the Blues to the Premier League title during his debut campaign.
A tumultuous second season at Stamford Bridge ensued, however, and despite claiming the FA Cup at the end of 2017/18, a fifth-place finish in the league combined with internal instability saw him sacked and replaced by Maurizio Sarri in the summer of 2018.
Conte is now attempting to return Inter to the upper echelons of European football after overseeing an impressive first season at San Siro, but in an interview with the Telegraph, he’s looked back on his ‘what could’ve been’ spell at Chelsea; discussing topics ranging from the signings that never arrived to Frank Lampard and the current side.
Here’s what he had to say.
“I asked for two players and we were very, very close after we won the league [summer of 2017].
“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%.
“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.”
“Stamford Bridge will always have a place in my heart. For sure. Because it was two years that I lived with great intensity and I felt from the first day that the fans were with me in every moment.
“I’m happy that I left a legacy. I think football is always an evolution and it’s important for the coach to be ready to find new solutions and to see other coaches, and if they have a new idea to rob them!
“I am happy because to play three at the back before I arrived in England, it was not a problem but I remember very well when Louis van Gaal tried it with Manchester United, there was a lot of criticism of him.”
“I think, honestly, now at this moment Chelsea is a really good team, a strong team, a large squad to face many, many competitions. They worked very well and at this moment they have many, many players.
“I remember when I arrived at Chelsea and the situation wasn’t this. Because I remember in my first season, we faced the season with only 16 players. But, in this year, the club worked very well. I know they are doing a really good job because I continue to follow Chelsea. I am a fan.
“Lampard is, for sure, doing a good job and he knows very well the club because he’s a legend for Chelsea. I think it was the same when I started with Juventus because I knew very well the club and the way that you had to follow to reach your target. Lampard is the right coach for Chelsea.”
“I have this season and another year of my contract at Inter and I started a project here, and, honestly, I want to continue this project and stay for many years because we are building the bases.
“But, for sure, in my future, I want to come back to England to have another experience because I enjoyed my stay there a lot and to breathe the atmosphere in England.
“For me, for my family, I’d like to one day come back to England because we lived an incredible experience and we want to continue to have another experience in England.”