ANTONIO CONTE claims Chelsea need to spend £¼BILLION on THREE players to get back to the top.
The Blues’ Italian boss insists his Premier League champs are paying the price for massive changes this season after the arrival of eight first-team players.
To have any chance of competing with Manchester City they need less disruption and some world-class signings — which on current prices would cost £250million.
That means competing for the likes of Monaco’s £90m-rated Thomas Lemar, £95m Atletico Madrid ace Antoine Griezmann or Spurs’ Toby Alderweireld for £65m.
Conte, who has ruled out a return as Italy’s boss, said: “We must be realistic and understand our level is.
“Now we have to struggle to fight for a Champions League place. Then, in the future, if there is the possibility, you have to try to buy only two or three — not eight players.
“Don’t forget, this summer we brought in eight players and spent a lot less than other teams who bought only two or three.”
From the team that stormed to the title last May, Diego Costa was frozen out before rejoining Atletico Madrid for £67m, Nemanja Matic was sold to rivals Manchester United for £40m and talismanic skipper John Terry moved to Aston Villa.
Conte says it is now a rebuilding job at Stamford Bridge and needs time — as well as money.
But after the shock 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth on Wednesday, it looks unlikely the 48-year-old will get it.
The former Juventus coach added: “We have to build something important. To do this, you must have 15 or 16 players.
“We changed eight players and that does not give you a great foundation. We lost strong, experienced players in the last few years, so must have patience to understand that.”
Liverpool spent a club-record £75m on Virgil van Dijk last month and Arsenal did the same to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for £60m.
United are paying Alexis Sanchez £505,000-A-WEEK and City also set a new club record with the £57m capture of Aymeric Laporte.
But Chelsea have not beaten the initial £58m they paid for Alvaro Morata in the summer to land the likes of Griezmann. Conte forked out £53m on Ross Barkley, Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud in January and reckons there should be quality over quantity in the market.
The backdrop to Chelsea’s slide has been the talk surrounding Conte’s job security, with Italian football chief Alessandro Costacurta willing to speak to his old friend and team-mate about returning to the Azzurri.
Conte laughed when it was suggested there was a Machiavellian plot playing out behind his back. The Italian said: “Machiavelli? I know him . . . every speculation in England, I don’t know where it arrived from.
“In Italy, I think the speculation is Costacurta wants to come here and speak about the national team. Maybe he forgot I have a contract with Chelsea.
“One thing I must be very clear — I don’t have interest about this speculation or rumours.
“But don’t forget the history of this club. It’s always the same, not only with me, with other coaches.
“And don’t forget that last season we won the league as underdogs.”