Conte keen on quick deals

Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan has agreed on a £31 million deal to move to Chelsea next season.
Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan has agreed on a £31 million deal to move to Chelsea next season.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

Chelsea's manager-in-waiting eyes 3 more targets after securing Nainggolan's services

LONDON • Chelsea are pursuing deals to sign Leonardo Bonucci, Ousmane Dembele and Hatem ben Arfa, after reaching an agreement with Roma over the transfer of Radja Nainggolan.

Incoming manager Antonio Conte met the 28-year-old Belgium midfielder this week to finalise the personal terms of his £100,000 (S$196,000) a week, four-year contract, as the clubs agreed a £31 million fee last week.

Still, he wants to further strengthen the spine of Chelsea's side, and is eager to complete as many deals as possible before heading to Euro 2016 with Italy.

He has identified Bonucci as his first-choice central defender but prising him from Juventus, the Serie A champions, will not be easy.

The appeal of joining Chelsea has been reduced by their absence from next season's Champions League and Bonucci still has four years left on his deal in Italy. Nemanja Matic or Oscar could be offered in part exchange.

Chelsea will also find it hard to sign Dembele, although the biggest obstacle to completing a move is likely to be the level of competition for the 18-year-old, rather than French club Rennes' refusal to sell.

Ben Arfa is a more surprising target for Chelsea because he was last seen in England playing on loan at Hull City.

The 29-year-old winger has since scored 18 goals after being reinvented as a deep-lying forward by French club Nice.

Chelsea's interest reflects their difficulty in securing a back-up for striker Diego Costa, who is expected to stay on despite enduring a difficult season.

After ending Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League title challenge on Monday, Chelsea can have a major influence on events at the other end of the table when they visit Sunderland today.

Newcastle and Norwich - Sunderland's rivals in the fight to avoid relegation - will hope Chelsea maintain the level of desire against Spurs when they visit the Stadium of Light.

With Conte waiting in the wings, a number of Blues players will be concerned they need to make an impression on the incoming coach before the transfer window opens.

Oscar has already paid the price for his failure to secure more regular playing time by being omitted from Brazil's squad for next month's Copa America.

Still, all the pressure will be on third-bottom Sunderland, who are one point from safety with three games left. Manager Sam Allardyce expects them to cope much better than Tottenham did on Monday when their 2-2 draw against Chelsea cost them the league title.

"That's the last thing we want to see in our last three games, we want to see controlled passion, desire and commitment, but we don't want to see us lose control," said Allardyce.

"We have to put everything into trying to beat a strong Chelsea side." THE TIMES, LONDON,

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Conte keen on quick deals'. Print Edition | Subscribe