Antonio Conte has taken a swipe at Manchester City and Manchester United by claiming his Chelsea team are proving that spending the most money does not guarantee success.
Head coach Conte has claimed upsetting the balance sheets and winning the Premier League title, and potentially a League and Cup double, would be the best achievement of his career in management.
Conte won three successive Serie A titles at Juventus, but rates the Premier League trophy as harder to win because of the level of competition and the resources of Chelsea’s rivals.
Chelsea have previously been accused of buying success during the Roman Abramovich era, but they were comfortably outspent by both City and United this season.
City will finish the season trophyless, despite splashing out almost £200m on new signings, while United are still not sure of qualification for the Champions League after investing around £150m in their squad.
Chelsea spent around £110m on their squad last summer, but managed to recoup over half of that, £60m, on Oscar alone in January.
Having reached the final of the FA Cup, Chelsea have the chance to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to seven points over Tottenham Hotspur for at least 24 hours by beating Southampton on Tuesday night.
“I think this season it's very important to understand that it's not always about who spends more money who wins,” said Conte.
“Otherwise, in this league, this season the name of the team wasn't Chelsea or Tottenham or Arsenal or Liverpool. You understand?
“I think in every situation it's important to find the right balance. If you have to spend money, try and spend that money in the right way to take players with the right characteristics for your idea of football.”
Conte has made it clear that he wants to make significant additions to his squad at the end of the season, with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku among Chelsea’s top targets.
But asked if he expects City and United to spend more money than Chelsea again, Conte replied: “Yes, like every year. You've seen the past. You can see that every season they spend a lot of money.
“I don't want to go into the situation of the other teams, other clubs, other managers. Every single club decides their own strategy. But, if you ask me, this season isn't the only season the Manchester clubs have spent a lot of money.
“Look at the past. It's normal for them. It's right for them to do this, to reinforce their teams, if they think this is the right way to win the title.
“But, for us I repeat, this season is very important because we are trying to build something important for the present, to put the foundations down and be strong, stronger for the future. And to build, also, slowly slowly to become a real power. A real power in the future.”
While United spent £89m on Paul Pogba, who has struggled to consistently show his best form, Chelsea signed N’Golo Kante for a relative bargain price of £30m and the midfielder was voted the PFA Player of the Year. “N'Golo was a target, our target and we were very pleased to reach this target in our transfer market,” said Conte.
“I think we spent this money in the right way.
“Sometimes, you can see players with great talent, with great talent to score goals, these players are important. But if you trust in an idea of football and you trust in the team, it's important to have a squad with good balance, with talent, but also with people like N'Golo – very strong to win the ball, to fight and work hard for the team. You must be pleased with this.”
Conte believes this is a crucial week for Chelsea and the title race, with games against Southampton and Everton following the FA Cup semi-final clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
On the subject of whether or not winning the title in his first season in English football would be his finest achievement, Conte was unequivocal. “Yes, for sure,” said Conte.
“For sure. For me, for the players, for the club. I think, now, to win the title in England is a great achievement. A top achievement for the coach, the players and the club. To win in England these days is not easy. “To win this league is difficult. I repeat, we must be proud in our work. We must know that now it's a good season. It will remain a good season. But we want it to become a great season, a fantastic season. To become a great or fantastic season, there is only one way - to try and win.”