Chelsea’s Antonio Conte happy with squad despite spending above market

• ‘You don’t have to spend this kind of money in football’ • Champions League and Community Shield wins mean squad is strong

Antonio Conte says he does not need to spend big to win trophies after delivering a double during his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge and, with the champions also progressing in the League Cup, claims he did not have to spend what Chelsea have spent in the past.

Tottenham Hotspur have a considerably weaker squad with 20 summer signings, while Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min all have a physical advantage over most of the Premier League’s next tier of forwards. Conte is determined to keep the pair – all of whom have established themselves among the league’s leading performers – for as long as possible but says Tottenham would be equally well served to strengthen over the next few months.

Conte’s upbeat assessment was characterised by an assertion that “in football, you don’t have to spend this kind of money”. The Italian nevertheless questioned whether teams such as Spurs, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal are the only contenders for the title at the moment.

“Honestly, if you want to win the Premier League and want to win the League Cup, you must have a fantastic squad,” he said. “It’s not only to try to buy three or four players or buy two players in January [against other teams]. You have to buy a very good squad.

“It’s important to be a bit afraid and to build the squad. If the squad is not good enough for a title, in the end you will find yourselves out of it. This is not only about money but also the work of the players. If you work well you should be able to buy good players. Of course, in football, you don’t have to spend this kind of money in order to win the title. But this league is full of very good players.

“I can only respect Tottenham because they made three or four really fantastic signings, but I think that the league is not easy for everyone. It’s true that I had a great start at Chelsea. But this season I think that there are very good clubs in England.”

The furore surrounding England’s 2-2 draw against Slovakia at Wembley on Wednesday, with both the draw and resulting goalless draw guaranteeing Conte a bonus of £400,000 in his bonus pot, took the gloss off the return of the club captain, Gary Cahill, from a knee injury. The defender’s energetic display, with 10 attempts and a goal, came as much from his refreshed mind-set than his fitness as the pain in his right knee is expected to take months to fade.

“He was 30 minutes without stopping, without feeling any pain,” said Conte. “He’s well but it’s important to know. There’s a lot of patience to wait for him but, if we win two games in a row [at Watford] and Tottenham, it will be very difficult to finish this run. For this reason, he will need some days to arrive at his physical condition. This is important for his well-being, not only for my well-being. It’s important to wait for Gary.”

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