Summer spending at Chelsea could be to the tune of £250m, with Antonio Conte set to be given a transfer budget to turn his side into Champions League challengers next season.
While rumours this week of the Italian being ready to leave the club were wide of the mark, Conte has reportedly grown frustrated behind the scenes at a lack of progress in the transfer market and his desperation to strengthen his squad mirrors the fans’ expectations in a crucial window.
Conte knows that he needs to bolster his squad in several key areas to make the Blues ready for an assault on next season’s Champions League and the Blues manager had identified a number of key areas he would like to strengthen.
He wants additions throughout the core of the team, with Willy Caballero the favourite for the back-up goalkeeper role required as a result of Asmir Begovic’s departure.
Gary Cahill’s performance for England vs France proved Chelsea require another option to add competition to their defensive ranks and Virgil van Dijk and Leonardo Bonucci remain the top targets in that area of the field.
Left wing-back is another area of concern for Conte, with Marcos Alonso the only proven player in that position beyond pushing Cesar Azpilicueta over to that side again, albeit in a more advanced role.
It has led to interest in Bonucci’s teammate Alex Sandro, with the Brazilian attempting to engineer a transfer from the Serie A club according to reports in Italy.
There is an acceptance that a double deal for Bonucci and Sandro would be difficult to pull off, however, and a deal for the Brazilian would be the more logical choice in the longer term given his age.
Bonucci would command a £50m transfer fee and big wages and for a 30-year-old defender, irrespective of his ability, it would be a bold move from the Blues.
There is more certainty over central midfield and striker options, with Tiemoue Bakayoko and Romelu Lukaku widely expected to be the two players who arrive imminently.
They would cost a significant portion of that £250m but would reinforce two key areas of the team, while money could be reinvested if the arrivals pave the way for the respective departures of Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa.
Recent links to James Rodriguez, Riyad Mahrez and Marco Verratti suggest Conte may also be tempted to add more midfield and attacking options, but Lukaku, Bakayoko, Sandro and a new centre-back appear to be at the head of his transfer shortlist.
There is tentative interest in Ross Barkley, though his likeliest destination is Tottenham and he isn’t amongst Conte’s priorities this summer.
His desire to add to key areas of his squad is recognition of what will be required in his debut season with the Blues in European football and Conte will not cut any corners when it comes to landing the players he feels he needs to make this squad one to challenge on all fronts.
If he is able to land his top targets during the close season, talk of him leaving a project he has only just put into place will dissipate quickly.