Antonio Conte has denied suggestions that Chelsea attempted to thrash out a big-money move for Celtic striker Moussa Dembele during the final throes of the transfer window. The Premier League leaders declined to make any additions to their squad on deadline day despite links to a trio of players that also included Schalke left wing-back Sead Kolasinac and Inter Milan outcast Jonathan Biabiany.
The Dembele rumour dominated proceedings for much of an otherwise quiet day, with The Telegraph stating Chelsea had been quoted a price of £40m ($50.5m) following an initial inquiry. Reports from France later suggested that the club saw an offer of £35m rebuffed, although, according to The Independent, Conte, speaking after Tuesday's (31 January) 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, flatly dismissed those claims and described them as pure "speculation".
Dembele himself reacted to such links by channeling his inner Jordan Belfort, posting a picture of himself striking a similar pose to one seen in The Wolf of Wall Street when Leonardo DiCaprio passionately declares that he is "not leaving".
With their pursuit of Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon as a potential replacement for Bournemouth target Asmir Begovic proving futile, Chelsea did not recruit any players in January and merely sanctioned the exits of Oscar, Patrick Bamford, Marco van Ginkel and Branislav Ivanovic. However, they did strengthen their squad to a degree by prematurely terminating Charly Musonda and Nathan Ake's temporary spells with Real Betis and Bournemouth. Conte is hopeful that duo, along with the previously recalled Kenedy, can now have a positive impact at Stamford Bridge moving forward.
After light-heartedly reminding reporters that the Chinese transfer window remains open until late February, the Italian added: "No, but I am pleased to continue with my players with this squad. We implemented our squad with three guys, three young players, I repeat, Ake, Musonda and Kenedy and our market is finished. I am pleased because now we have the squad and it's important to be focused, to be concentrated in the second part of the season, to get back into the Champions League because, for a club like Chelsea, it's important to get back."
Kolasinac, who is out of contract at the end of the season, was thought to be a legitimate target for Conte as he aimed to secure adequate cover for Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses. Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel confirmed to Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung that there had indeed been an offer for a player also heavily linked with Juventus, but quickly insisted it was "off the table immediately". Sky Italy also reported that Biabiany, out of favour at Inter, turned down a loan move to Chelsea amid apparent concerns over how he fitted into the club's long-term picture.
Eddie Howe has since revealed that Bournemouth did inquire regarding the possibility of taking Ake back to Dean Court either on loan or permanently, but were swiftly declined. He also claimed that reports of an £18m offer were "miles off the mark".