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Antonio Conte believes Chelsea could have become dominant in England if he signed Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku after his first season

Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hit the ground running at the Stamford Bridge club, winning the Premier League title at the end of his first season with the Blues in 2016-17.

The club set a then-new Premier League record for the most wins in a single season, with 30 league victories out of 38 league matches, but things went south in his second season as Chelsea finished fifth, missing out on Champions League qualification.

While they won the FA Cup that same season, Conte was sacked in July 2018 and was replaced by Maurizio Sarri.

The Italian believes Chelsea could have become perennial title challengers had they ended up signing Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk in the summer of 2017.

“My history says that I always arrived at my clubs in a difficult situation with problems,” Conte told the Telegraph.

“I always build. After my first season at Chelsea, when we won the title, we could have become dominant in England.

“We spoke with (Romelu) Lukaku and (Virgil) van Dijk, and with those two important players we could have changed the situation.”

Chelsea have not won the Premier League title since then, and while they ended up winning the Champions League in 2020-21, they have struggled to dominate in England since Conte left despite finishing in the top-four in four of the last six seasons.

They finished 12th last term and are currently 10th in the table after 24 games, and qualifying for Europe is starting to look like an impossible task.

Conte believes they should have built on the success of his first campaign, but they missed a trick and have been struggling since the arrival of their current owners in 2022.

Van Dijk eventually joined Liverpool from Southampton in January 2018, while Lukaku moved to Manchester United from Everton in the summer of 2017 before eventually returning to Chelsea in the summer of 2021.

The Netherlands international centre-back has since gone ahead to establish himself as one of the best centre-backs on the planet at Liverpool, and while Lukaku struggled in the Premier League after leaving Everton, he rediscovered his form under Conte at Inter Milan, winning the Serie A title in 2020-21 and bagging 64 goals across two seasons.

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