Antonio Conte has never been afraid of setting himself lofty challenges and the ambitious Italian will be no different at Chelsea, now that he has had a week to settle in to his new surroundings at Stamford Bridge.
Conte, who got his Chelsea reign off to a losing start on Saturday against Rapid Wien, has plenty of hard work ahead of him as he looks to catapult the Blues back up the Premier League table after a 10th-placed finish last season. Indeed, Conte has earmarked an upturn in Eden Hazard’s form as central to Chelsea’s purported resurgence.
“I think that Chelsea have players who can become top, top, top players,” Conte told The Daily Mail.
“I think that these players can still improve a lot with work. Because now we have players, fantastic players, who have great talent but in this moment the world doesn’t think they are the same level as Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo or Paul Pogba.
“But I think that in our squad there are players who, with work, can improve a lot and reach this level. I’m sure about this. It’s important the players understand this. There is the ability to work, to prove and to show that, now I am a top player, but I want to become top, top, top player and I want to stay there.
“This is important. The mentality is important. The heart is important, patience and the will to improve is very important and in this case it’s important for the manager to take the best players and try to improve them,” he added.
Conte also revealed he has spoken directly to Hazard – and was encouraged by their discussion.
“I spoke with him and I’m very happy. For me I’m pleased to train a fantastic player like him and also the other players. In Chelsea, with Hazard there are many players with great talent — Diego Costa, many players. I don’t want to say the names but many, many players. It’s important for me, I repeat, next season to create the right spirit in the team and with great organisation, a great physical condition we can have a good season.”
Following the loss to Rapid Wien, Conte said he was delighted at the £32m capture of N’Golo Kante from champions Leicester City.
“I’m very happy the club bought the player,” he said. “He has good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. We identified him, me and the club together, and I think he can enforce a zone which is very important if we want to play with two central midfielders.”