Football News

‘We spoke with him’ – Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte reveals Liverpool icon was a summer target

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:30, 14 February 2024

Antonio Conte has revealed Virgil van Dijk was in conversations to join Chelsea during his time at the club.

The former Blues head coach spent two years at Stamford Bridge, and before the Italian’s second campaign, there were discussions to sign Van Dijk from Southampton.

Conte had relocated to West London in 2016 following a period as Italy’s national team manager, subsequently ending his inaugural Premier League season as a champion.


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Looking ahead to Chelsea’s title defence, Van Dijk, who had already made over 50 league appearances for the Saints, was identified as strengthening Chelsea’s backline amid Liverpool’s own interest.

Nothing came to fruition, with Jurgen Klopp’s team finally sealing the Dutchman midway through Conte’s final season, and the out-of-work coach feels that signing — and bringing Romelu Lukaku back — would have made the difference with Chelsea ending in fifth.

“My history says that I always arrived at my clubs in a difficult situation with problems. I always build,” he said during an interview with The Telegraph.

“My history says that I always arrived at my clubs in a difficult situation with problems. I always build.”

“After my first season at Chelsea, when we won the title, we could have become dominant in England. We spoke with (Romelu) Lukaku and (Virgil) van Dijk, and with those two important players we could have changed the situation.”

Van Dijk’s switch to Liverpool was transformative. Since joining, the Reds have claimed five top-four finishes from six seasons played, with their 2019/20 championship being the pinnacle. The colossus from Breda had a down season last time out, with the Merseyside giants ending in fifth, but he and Klopp’s men are back with a vengeance.

Liverpool currently leads the Premier League through 24 matches, but defending champion Manchester City is two points back with a game in hand. Van Dijk’s own performance has seen the Dutchman reestablish himself as the league’s best centre-back.

He recently became the first player to win 100+ aerial duels (with an impressive 82.6% win rate) in the Premier League this season⁠.

Meanwhile, Conte would link up with Lukaku when the Belgian marksman joined Inter in 2019, spending two seasons together. Lukaku would return with 64 goals across 95 appearances under Conte in all competitions. It remains Lukaku’s most prolific spell under one manager at club level.

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