BEIJING, China, Jul 21 – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte marvelled Friday at the “crazy” transfer fees demanded for players, though he praised 80-million-euro ($92.2-million) newcomer Alvaro Morata as a young but experienced striker with a bright future.
The Italian coach said Morata, 24, will be a “first choice” player for his squad in the upcoming Premier League season, a day after Real Madrid and Chelsea announced his transfer.
Conte hailed Morata’s experience playing with the Spanish giants and previously with Juventus in the Champions League.
“He’s a good striker. He’s a player with the right prospect for Chelsea. He’s very young and for sure he can improve a lot,” he told a press conference on the eve of a pre-season game against Arsenal in Beijing.
Chelsea had long been linked to a move for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku but it signed Morata after the Belgian international joined Manchester United instead for a reported 85 million euros.
Asked whether the price paid for Morata was fair after he had previously warned about the spending power of Chinese clubs, Conte acknowledged that “for sure this transfer market is crazy”.
“I think if you want to buy a simple player, okay, a normal player, you have to start to think to spend 40-50 million euros, and I think this is incredible,” he said.
Sky Sports reported earlier that Morata passed his Chelsea medical and was expected to fly to Singapore to link up with his new team-mates following their tour in China.
Arsenal had a tough week with several players hit by food poisoning in Shanghai, where they played under searing heat against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. The London team won 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said 21 players were fit for Saturday’s game, but he voiced doubts that Theo Walcott could play.
“I don’t think he will be ready for tomorrow but it’s nothing major,” he said.
While it is a pre-season game, Wenger promised a competitive match against Arsenal’s London rivals at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing.
“It’s not really a friendly” because of the historic rivalry, he said. “There’s always some pride at stake.”
Arsenal defeated Chelsea to win the FA Cup in May, while the Blues won the Premier League title.