There is no question that Chelsea will look to put this season behind them in a hurry, with the Blues finishing as low as tenth as they struggled to impose themselves in the Premier League. Guus Hiddink deserves considerable praise for steadying the ship in his second spell at Stamford Bridge as caretaker manager, particularly during a time in December when the team were dangerously close to the relegation zone. The wily old Dutchman has left incoming manager Antonio Conte with a platform to build on, and although it remains to be seen what the former Juventus manager will bring to the table, there is growing belief that the current Italy manager may be the right man to put Chelsea back on track.
Being at Euro 2016 may hamper Chelsea’s transfer plans, but Conte may have already identified his main transfer targets away from trying to mastermind Italy’s route to the final at the Stade de France. Repeating the trick with Chelsea would be most welcome, but with Coral considering the Blues as fourth favourites to win the 2016/2017 Premier League title in the latest online sportsbook soccer odds, it may take the arrival of a few high-profile players to mount a serious challenge.
Some would argue that Chelsea need to strengthen in all areas following a hugely disappointing campaign, but Conte may consider improvements in defence as a priority. Italian managers traditionally like to build from the back and become very difficult to break down, with his resounding success at Juventus being a potential sign of things to come; three successive Serie A titles illustrates the influence Conte had on the team, with defensive solidity a prominent feature of his time in Turin.
John Terry’s decision to sign a new one-year contract is great news for everyone connected with Chelsea, with Conte likely to value his leadership and experience to be a commanding presence in defence next season. Speculation has linked the Blues with a move for Juventus centre-back Leonardo Bonucci, and with Kurt Zouma likely to be out until next year, the 29-year-old could be a great addition. It would take a considerable fee to convince the Serie A champions to sell one of their best players, with Bonucci making an excellent start with his country at Euro 2016.
Another defender who has been linked with a move to the Bridge is Marquinhos who has fallen out of favour at Paris Saint-Germain. The 22-year-old moved to the French capital as a highly-rated prospect with a big future ahead of him, but has found first team opportunities limited and may decide to move on this summer. It would represent good business if the Brazilian was to become a Chelsea player, although Conte’s first objective may be to target players who he knows well from his time in Italy.
Radja Nainggolan is certainly a name that has featured prominently in the rumour mill, and while fans can look on Coral for the latest news on who’s up for transfer this summer, it would be no surprise if the Belgium international arrived at the Bridge following the conclusion of Euro 2016. Nainggolan would certainly add drive, energy and goals to the midfield area, and while Valencia’s Andre Gomes also linked with Chelsea, Conte could oversee a potential overhaul of the squad.
Chelsea may have lost the defensive solidity and protection that saw them storm towards the title in 2014/2015, but the Blues also lacked a threat upfront without Diego Costa. Loic Remy, Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato all failed to make an impact when given a chance to shine, so Conte could look to bolster his team’s attacking options with a move for Alvaro Morata.
The Spain international is currently representing Spain at Euro 2016 following a strong season with Juventus, despite not always being first choice. However, any deal to bring Morata to the Bridge may be complicated by Real Madrid’s buy-back clause which they may look to exercise; there is still a possibility that the Champions League winners may sell the striker for a profit, but may opt to keep him at the Bernabeu. It would certainly take a big offer to bring Morata to Chelsea, but with Roman Abramovich likely to back Conte with enough money to take the club back to the top, it could be a big summer at the Bridge.