Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has made a shocking revelation claiming that he was close to signing Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk at Stamford Bridge.
In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte has sensationally revealed that he was keen on signing Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk during his time in charge at Chelsea and came very close to completing the deal.
Antonio Conte arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2016, taking over from caretaker boss Guus Hiddink after Jose Mourinho’s second stint at Stamford Bridge came to an end. The Italian tactician sparked a spectacular turnaround at the club, leading them to the Premier League title in his debut season.
The following campaign, Conte masterminded an FA Cup success at Chelsea, before bringing an end to his tenure at the club in 2018 on bitter terms.
However, the ex-Juventus boss has now claimed that things could have been much more different if the Blues had been able to secure the signings of his top two transfer targets post the league title triumph – Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku.
“I asked for two players and we were very, very close after we won the league. 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,” he said.
Conte reckons that the failure to secure those signings sapped his team’s momentum and eventually led to his acrimonious exit from the club a year later. “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,” he claimed.
At the time of question, van Dijk was still plying his trade at Southampton. The Netherlands international would leave the Saints in January 2018 to join Liverpool in a deal worth £75 million – which made him the world’s most expensive defender at the time.
During his time at Anfield, van Dijk has played a pivotal role in dragging Liverpool back to the top of the English football pyramid, winning the UEFA Champions League as well as the Premier League.
Van Dijk is currently out with a serious knee injury, which has potentially ruled him out for the rest of the 2020/21 campaign. This, coupled with injuries to Joe Gomez and Fabinho, has left the Reds scouring the transfer market for defensive reinforcements.
Widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League as well as Europe, van Dijk’s importance for this Liverpool side cannot be overstated. However, things could have been very different for him, Liverpool as well as Chelsea, had Conte succeeded in his efforts to land the Dutchman in 2017.