Chelsea are right to not give Antonio Conte control of transfers

Antonio Conte, manager of Chelsea during a press conference at Stamford Bridge on 17 March, 2017 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Antonio Conte, manager of Chelsea during a press conference at Stamford Bridge on 17 March, 2017 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

Recent reports have surfaced claiming that Antonio Conte wants more control over Chelsea transfers.

Chelsea FC have been noticeably particular about calling Antonio Conte their ‘head coach’ instead of manager since he was appointed at the start of the season. Chelsea transfers are now made by the technical directors instead of the coach.

There’s a reason for that. While manager of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho made a number of controversial transfers and the Chelsea hierarchy have now decided to take more control of transfers at the club.

Technical Director’s Michael Emanalo and Marina Granovskaia now seemingly have full control over transfers of players at Chelsea. They decide who to buy and who to sell while Antonio Conte can only give suggestions to the board over who he wants at the club.

Chelsea have been clever by using the word ‘head coach’ for Conte as they know that this word implies that he is just a first team coach rather than a manager.

So, what’s the difference?

A manager of a club tends to make the decisions when it comes to transfers and the general running of the club. The manager also has the freedom to hire whatever coaching staff he feels he needs.

A coach simply trains the players he has, makes tactical decisions and suggests to the board what players he wants. Many clubs are now following this business model too as clubs now days seem to recycle through managers as soon as results get bad. Thus, it’s important for a club to have directors who have a solid vision and plan for the long-term future of the club. This involves buying and developing young players.

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Out of all four Chelsea transfers the club has made since Conte was appointed, only one was specifically requested by Conte which was N’Golo Kante. And okay, this was arguably the best signing of any club in Europe for £30m. The rest though, David Luiz, Marcos Alonso and Michy Batshuayi were all signings by the board. But these signings have worked out brilliantly for Chelsea except for perhaps Michy whom Conte doesn’t seem to like.

And perhaps, Conte is making a statement by not playing Michy.  He’s saying, “you give me players I don’t want, and I won’t play them”.  But the owner and the board must stay strong and keep control of all Chelsea transfers.

Case in point; while Mourinho was manager at Chelsea, he made a number of questionable decisions including selling Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. In hindsight these were big mistakes.

Lukaku has gone on to become one of the most sought after strikers in world football with clubs like Manchester United and Bayern Munich interested. While Manchester City paid £50m to buy De Bruyne off Wolfsburg in 2015. De Bruyne is now one of the best midfielders in the world racking up goals and assists for Manchester City.

In-fact, a rather confident but blunt question was asked of Conte in a recent press conference of whether or not he thought Mourinho was basically stupid for selling those players. Conte, as normal just brushed off the question with his usual “But I think that this isn’t important… etc.

Additionally, Mourinho didn’t have much faith in youth players and sold or loaned out a number of players such as Victor Moses who has now gone on to become one of Chelsea’s most important players.

The Chelsea board have made the right decision. While Antonio Conte is arguably one of the best coaches in the world, they shouldn’t make the same mistake they made when Mourinho was at Chelsea.

So the board is rightly focused on bringing in young players and developing our own youth academy. The future of the club is the most important thing. Managers like Mourinho can buy great players who are 27-28-years old to help them win a trophy at the club for the present. But the future is key.

Chelsea bought and developed Lukaku and De Bruyne, and if it wasn’t for Mourinho’s rash and biased decisions to sell them too early, Chelsea would’ve had two of the best players in the world, or alternatively would’ve made a lot more money from selling them. Now Chelsea are being linked with buying Lukaku back from Everton for £75m after Mourinho sold him for £28m in 2014.

While I do think Conte should be able to request certain players he feels he needs at Chelsea, I don’t think he should be given complete control over who the board buys and sells. I’m probably in the minority of Chelsea fans here, but I actually have faith in what Emanalo and Granovskaia are trying to do.

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Chelsea notoriously have an ‘army’ of players out on loan and while this has drawn some criticism from some critics, it’s an economic and effective way of developing talent for the club. The young players like Lewis Baker at Vitesse and Nathan Ake at Watford and Bournemouth have gone on to develop into great players who should be pushing for a first team spot at Chelsea next season.

Additionally, players like Andreas Christensen, Bertrand Traore and Tammy Abraham are all touted as being future stars at Chelsea. If Mourinho was still the manager, some of these players may have been sold which would be a massive mistake.

While I do think that Antonio Conte has more sense than Mourinho when it comes to Chelsea transfers, Conte has only been at Chelsea for less than a year. He still needs to come to grips with the Chelsea philosophy while installing his own.

If owner Roman Abramovich did decide to give Conte £200m like reports are suggesting, I think it would be a  mistake to allow him to use the money however he wishes. He may buy someone like Arturo Vidal or Claudio Marchisio for example who are both old players . While they’re great players, they don’t represent long-term future promise for the club and Chelsea would only end up losing money on them in the end.

What I think is best is that Conte continues his role as ‘head coach’ at Chelsea and leave the usual Chelsea transfer business to the directors. He could give them a list of players he needs, or players who fit the ‘mold’ of the type he needs. But, don’t just give him £200m and say “there ya go, have fun!”

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It’s important for Chelsea that the board and the owner have a clear vision and long-term plan for the future of the club.  While it’s also important that the manager or coach shares the same plan. But, it’s not essential. Managers come and go. It’s not like the old days with Sir Alex Ferguson at United and Wenger at Arsenal. Football has changed and it’s up to clubs now to get the right directors who share the same plan for the club as the owner and the fans.