CONTE IN LIMBO AS MILAN CHIEFS TAKE ON ROMAN’S BILLIONS
More defensive targets fall as rivals play financial hard ball
ANTONIO CONTE is facing fresh frustration in his battle to solve Chelsea’s defensive crisis.
AC Milan’s incoming new Chinese owners have taken on Blues owner Roman Abramovich (above) in a bid to prevent the Russian prising highly-rated Alessio Romagnoli away from Serie A.
It comes with Napoli demanding £60million for their Senegal centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and the same club in pole position to take another of Chelsea’s defensive targets, Torino’s Nikola Maksimovic.
Conte’s side have already had a bid of £30m for 21-year-old Romagnoli rejected and are ready to make an improved offer of £35m.
But Milan’s prospective new owners are keen to demonstrate their ambition to the club’s fans and believe the best way of doing so is by fending off unwanted approaches for their young rising star.
Although the Italian giants’ takeover will not be complete for some time, all decisions regarding transfers have to be agreed by both the current custodians – Silvio Berlusconi’s company Fininvest – and the incoming owners.
Conte has held talks with Stamford Bridge chiefs over their next move in the transfer market with just a week to go before the window closes. It is understood the former Italy and Juventus boss is after another three players before it slams shut.
The west London club have won their first two games in the Premier League, having signed midfielder N’Golo Kante from Leicester for £32m and striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille for £33m.
But they have backed away from a move to re-sign striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton after being quoted a massive £75m by the Merseysiders.
Chelsea are adamant they will not be held to ransom by Everton, Napoli or any other club over players despite their lack of time to do deals before the window closes.
The Blues are stretched in defence, however, with academy star Ola Aina injured in Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over Bristol Rovers that put them into the EFL Cup’s third round. Papy Djilobodji was sold to Sunderland earlier this month, Kurt Zouma remains injured, Nathan Ake has gone back out on loan to Bournemouth and £21m full-back Baba Rahman has joined Schalke on a season-long loan.
Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is targeting a clean sweep for Chelsea in the league and the cup competitions.
Conte has confirmed the rising star will stay and fight for his place this season rather than going out on loan.
Loftus-Cheek, 20, impressed playing just off two-goal Batshuayi in the EFL Cup victory and he said: “There is no Champions League this season but we want to win trophies.
“We can concentrate on the Premier League and the cups as well.
“It is a minus not being in the Champions League but it is a plus in a way that we can focus on the two cups.”