Claudio Ranieri believes Chelsea boss Antonio Conte expected the Blues to be more free-spending than they have been in the transfer market during his reign but does not think Roman Abramovich is willing to pay "crazy" prices for players any more.

The Premier League champions spent around £200m this summer on the likes of Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko but recouped almost £150m through the sales of stars like Nathan Ake, Nemanja Matic and eventually Diego Costa.

Conte has been at odds with the Chelsea hierarchy over transfers on a number of occasions during his tenure in west London and has never seemed overly happy with the club's business. Ranieri, who is working wonders with Nantes so far this season, can sympathise with his compatriot as he does his utmost to compete with the Manchester powerhouses but does not think the former Juventus boss is as desperate to return to his homeland as some suggest.

Ranieri was the manager of Chelsea when Abramovich took over the club in 2003 and oversaw a huge spending spree which immediately transformed the west Londoners from nearly-men to title contenders. Fourteen years on, the Russian has created a sustainable business model that brings in as much as it shells out and Ranieri believes his former boss is no longer willing to splurge his own money and blow other clubs out of the water.

"The Premier League remains the best and I have not convinced of Conte's desire to return home. Maybe he was expecting a different transfer window but for a few years, Abramovich has not paid crazy prices," Ranieri told Gazzetta Dello Sport.

"Manchester City and Manchester United on the other hand have made big buys so I can imagine that for Antonio to fight on more fronts with the same players is more tiring."

Trying to keep up with City and United may be exhausting work but Conte's men may not find securing victory against Crystal Palace too taxing this weekend. Chelsea may be without N'Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata for the visit of the Eagles, who have failed to pick up a point or score a goal during the Premier League this season but managed to come away from Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 victory at the back-end of last season.

Antonio Conte
Conte's reign at Chelsea has not been without its issues. Getty Images