Premier League title would be my best: Conte

LONDON • Antonio Conte would consider winning the English Premier League title this season with Chelsea as the highlight of his managerial career, with the feat carrying greater weight in the context of the lavish sums spent by both Manchester clubs last summer.

"For sure, it would be my greatest achievement," said Conte, whose side hosted Southampton at Stamford Bridge early this morning (Singapore time), when a home win would see the leaders re-establish a seven- point advantage over nearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

"Now, to win the title in England is a great achievement. A top achievement for the coach, the players and the club," added the Italian who claimed three Serie A titles with Juventus and took Italy to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. "To win in England these days is not easy."

He inherited a side who had finished 10th last season, their worst placing under Roman Abramovich's ownership.

The Italian added David Luiz, N'Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso and Michy Batshuayi to the ranks for around £100 million (S$178.4 million) over the summer. Rivals United spent £150 million while City had an outlay of £165 million.

"This season it's very important to understand it's not always about who spends more money who wins," said Conte. "Otherwise, in this league, this season the name of the (title-winning) team wouldn't be Chelsea or Tottenham or Arsenal or Liverpool. You understand?"

Asked if he anticipated the Manchester clubs spending as heavily again over the summer ahead, he said: "Yes, like every year... But it's right for every team to do what they think is best.

"Every single club decides their own strategy... It's right for them to do this, to reinforce their teams, if they think this is the right way to win the title."

The 47-year-old has already discussed Chelsea's plans for the summer with the director, Marina Granovskaia, and the technical director, Michael Emenalo, with the Blues hoping to strengthen significantly themselves before their return to the Champions League.

The likes of Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Virgil van Dijk, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Alvaro Morata and Alex Sandro feature on a hefty wish-list.

"This season is very important because we are trying to build something important for the present, to put the foundations down and be strong, stronger for the future," Conte added. "And to build, also, slowly, slowly to become a real power. A real power in the future."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Premier League title would be my best: Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe