Antonio Conte confirmed that N’Golo Kante was one of his top summer transfer targets to bolster Chelsea’s squad, saying the Frenchman will be integral to making his vision for a two-man central midfield a reality.
Chelsea announced the signing of Kante for a fee reported to be around £30 million just hours before opening their preseason with a 2-0 defeat to Rapid Vienna at Allianz Stadion, with the former Leicester City man signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge.
Conte began the match with Jon Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic in central midfield while Ruben Loftus-Cheek often joined Diego Costa as a second striker, reinforcing suggestions that the former Italy and Juventus coach is looking to employ a 4-4-2 or even 4-2-4 system at Chelsea.
Speaking at his postmatch media conference, Conte revealed that he and Chelsea had jointly identified Kante as a priority target this summer, due to the energy and technical quality that the 25-year-old showcased during Leicester’s remarkable run to the Premier League title and with France at Euro 2016.
“Kante was a target and for this reason I am very very happy that the club bought this player,” Conte said. “He’s a good player, good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. I think when you want to win you need this player, like Kante, like Matic, who works hard for the team.
“I am very happy because together with the club we are working to improve the squad. We know we have to improve but we prefer to wait than to go for a player that doesn’t adapt to our idea of football. Tomorrow [Sunday], Batshuayi arrives with us and he starts to work with the team.
“We identified [Kante] — me and the club together. I think that he can give a lot to Chelsea to enforce and so on. He’s very important for us if we want to play with two central midfielders. He showed in last season he is able to play with another midfield. Also, I think with this player we reinforce our squad.”
Chelsea travel to the southern Austrian town of Velden on Sunday to begin a week-long training camp, which will include another friendly against WAC RZ Pellets on July 20.
Kante is not expected to join up with his new teammates until the Blues fly to the U.S. to participate in the International Champions Cup at the end of this month.
Conte still wants one or two new signings before Chelsea begin their Premier League campaign at home to West Ham on Aug. 15.
Another centre-back is at the top of the agenda, but the Italian refused to be drawn on persistent speculation linking the Blues with Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
“We talk every day with the club,” he added. “It’s very important because we know what this team needs. The club and I are on the same [page] and we know to do what to do to improve this club, this team.
“[But] we prefer to wait and to take the right player rather than to take a player only for emotion. It’s not right for me. It’s important.”
One new face that Conte was willing to confirm is Juan Cuadrado. Chelsea’s new head coach admitted that he has long been an admirer of the Colombia international winger, who spent last season on loan at Juventus after falling out of favour under Jose Mourinho.
“He is a Chelsea player and I am waiting for him,” Conte said of Cuadrado. “He must come back very soon. He is in our squad. I am very happy to have him.
“He is a player I wanted in Juventus and now he must come back and he start to train with us. Yes, he is Chelsea’s player and he will stay with us. If something changes you will know.”
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