If Chelsea need a good reference or reason to sign Saul Niguez this summer, then they might want to lean on the words of their former manager.
Never one to mince his words, Antonio Conte’s declarations are usually heard and felt with force.
He is not known to shy away from bemoaning his players.
Alexis Sanchez was on the end of a brutally honest assessment in February.
Conte has also previously criticised the hierarchies of Chelsea and Inter Milan for not having enough money to spend on transfers.
But the Blues might just want to take notice of one of the Italian’s more positive comments about a man they are becoming very familiar with.
It’s been widely reported in the past few days that a loan move for Saul is being debated by the Champions League conquerors.
Atletico Madrid are seemingly open to letting the midfielder leave temporarily this term.
Or permanently next year if a suitable offer arises.
Conte’s crystal ball
Chelsea and Manchester United are in a sprint to get this deal over the finish line, although some suggest the latter is currently in the lead.
Thomas Tuchel may not be personally pushing for the transfer, but his predecessor might have done had he still been in the job.
“Saul is a young player but now he has the right prospect to be a top player,” said Conte back in 2017 before his Blues took on Atletico in a European tie.
“I know Saul very well and he is a very important player for Atletico. I like him and is a really good midfielder.”
In the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge, Saul shone on the grandest stage, scoring against Chelsea and denying Conte’s side top spot in the group.
Four years later, he would return to South West London for the same fixture but with a quarter-final place on the line.
On this occasion, the Spaniard was in the losing camp, as Tuchel’s team romped to a comprehensive 2-0 victory.
Surely he’d like a taste of that winning meal this campaign?