Chelsea will turn to Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata or Torino’s Andrea Belotti to try and satisfy a “livid” Antonio Conte, although sources say the club still haven’t completely given up hope on signing Romelu Lukaku from Everton, despite the Belgian striker’s anticipated move to Manchester United.
In what has already been a frustrating summer window for the Premier League champions that has so far seen them solely bring in Willy Caballero as back-up goalkeeper, a lot of work had been put into the prospective return of Lukaku to replace the outgoing Diego Costa up front, only for a protracted stall in the purchase to see his agent Mino Raiola turn to Manchester United and let them know a deal could be on.
Conte’s desire to sign the 24-year-old had been so great that he had actually dropped his interest in long-term target Morata a few months ago, but Chelsea could now be forced to go back in for the Spanish international - who had himself been expecting to join United - if Lukaku does end up at Old Trafford.
Senior Chelsea sources are adamant that the Belgian’s first choice is Stamford Bridge but, with that deal having reached a complete impasse, it now looks locked in that he will go to United.
For their part, Everton’s negotiations with Old Trafford have gone much smoother due to the expected return of Wayne Rooney to Goodison Park, but that will not temper Conte’s great frustration given that he had already become agitated about the slow pace of the champions’ transfer movements.
One positive is that he does greatly rate Morata, who also deeply admires Conte as a manager. The Italian hugely impressed Morata and his family when giving him the hard sell to go to Juventus in 2014, just before Conte left for his national team, in a move that was coincidentally to do with frustration over the Serie A club’s transfer business.
That signing could go much smoother due to the fact Real also want to sell to bring in Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe, although they will not budge on their €90m asking price.
Given the paucity of available high-quality options, Chelsea have also been looking into another previous United target in Belotti, but Torino are similarly unwilling to move from a buy-out price of €100m. That was one issue that put the Red Devils off a deal due to how they usually structure purchases, despite Jose Mourinho’s admiration for the player.
A tense situation at Chelsea is only heightened by the fact they need a replacement for Costa, whose future at the club was made almost impossible by his decision to publicly reveal a text from Conte stating that he was no longer needed. While it is fully expected that he will join former club Atletico Madrid and sit out as they serve a ban on registering new players until January, Chelsea will still insist he return to club duty until any deal is actually done.
The champions are also aiming to bring in Roma’s Antonio Rudiger and Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko over the next week, although only adding to Conte’s frustration is the fact that the latter had been expected to join Stamford Bridge as long ago as a month ago.
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