Antonio Conte poised to become Chelsea’s highest ever paid manager
LONDON, May 14: Roman Abramovich is poised to make Antonio Conte the highest paid manager in Chelsea’s history and bankroll a £200million summer spend as reward for winning the Premier League title.
Chelsea are also confident that Eden Hazard will sign a new £300,000-a-week contract after holding positive talks with the Belgian over his future in the days leading up to Friday night’s title success at West Bromwich Albion.
Head coach Conte, who has suggested that he will stay at Stamford Bridge, wants to add greater depth and versatility to his Chelsea squad for next season, so he can swap between the 3-4-3 formation that has been so successful and his favoured 4-2-4.
Chelsea owner Abramovich is expected to grant Conte his wish in the transfer market and also reflect the current going rate for top managers in an improved new contract.
Conte’s current deal is worth £6.5m-a-year, less than Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp are paid, while Mourinho’s last contract at Chelsea earned him £7.5m-a-year.
Inter Milan are willing to pay Conte £12.5m-a-year deal to quit Stamford Bridge, but Abramovich will offer the 47-year-old the biggest salary for a manager in Chelsea’s history and ensure he leapfrogs both Klopp and Wenger in the earnings list.
Chelsea are adamant that Real Madrid target Hazard will not be sold in the summer and are understood to have told the 26-year-old that he can achieve all of his ambitions at Stamford Bridge during an encouraging meeting.
With the club willing to hand him a new £300,000-a-week contract, Hazard gave Chelsea further reason for optimism by giving an interview in which he claimed he could win the Ballon d’Or with his current employers.
Chelsea already have £60m sitting in the bank from the January sale of Oscar and, together with the return of Champions League football next season, the club can afford to give Conte the funds to significantly boost his squad.
Striker Romelu Lukaku, who Everton value at £100m, is a top target, along with central defender Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko. Conte is also looking for a full-back and a wide player to allow him to play a 4-2-4 when he so wishes.
There will be departures this summer with captain John Terry going, back-up goalkeeper Asmir Begovic likely to leave and Nathan Ake keen to play regular first-team football. Major doubts also remain over the future of striker Diego Costa, who Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian are confident of signing.
Asked whether he could 100 per cent guarantee he will be Chelsea manager next season, Conte replied: “Yeah, yeah. But I think we started to work, to do our work, and we have to improve in the next season and to find the right solution to improve.
“We work only nine months together and I think if you continue with these players you can improve a lot. I think the club wants to fight to win every competition and we have the same ambition, and for this reason we try to keep the best players.”
Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard is confident the club will fight off Inter Milan’s interest in Conte and believes this could be a new “golden generation” of Blues players if the squad is kept to together and added to.
“We’ve all heard the stories about Inter Milan wanting Conte and I am sure the club will want to put that to bed as soon as possible,” said Lampard. “They (Chelsea) will want to reward him for this – as all top teams do.
“It’s not just the manager. There’s talk about Hazard, about Costa, about Courtois. But you can’t win titles or go into the Champions League without having top players who can make the difference.
“This year, players like Costa and Hazard have made that difference, so Chelsea will be desperate to keep them.
“I hope it can be the next golden generation for Chelsea, but it is going to be hard for any one team to dominate the Premier League again over a number of seasons.
“Chelsea will have to improve and they will do that because they will have to deal with Champions League football.
“I think they will have to add to the squad. A club like Chelsea will always look to add, but they will have to add players who are top class. There’s no point bringing in players who aren’t better than they have got already.
“That’s going to be tough because the team they have got already looks almost complete. But they must also make sure they keep hold of their best players.”