Alvaro Morata may be on the cusp of a move to Manchester United this summer, but he was notably complimentary of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte back in April.
The 24-year-old, who wants to leave the Bernabeu in order to receive more game time, could complete a move to Old Trafford by Tuesday.
It was hoped that, after his agent Juanma Lopez held talks with the club last week, that the deal would be wrapped up by now, but Madrid are holding out for a fee of £79m.
But Morata clearly considered – and perhaps still does as the deal rumbles on into next week – a move to Chelsea earlier this year.
“Various Premier League coaches called to tell me to play for them,” he said. “I said yeah, I’d like to, that if I had to leave I would almost certainly go to London, but that I didn’t know what Madrid would do.
“I knew they’d bring me back but I didn’t know if it was to keep me or sell me. I spoke directly to Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte, although the norm is clubs call my dad or agent. Madrid said they didn’t want to sell, so here I am.
“I remember talking to my dad then and him saying: ‘This guy’s going to win the league there.’
“Conte is the manager who most ‘bet’ on me, without even ever having had me in his team. I’m very conscious of that: he bet on me for Juventus but left before I arrived; then he wanted me at Chelsea come what may. He knows me better than I could imagine, I’m sure, and that’s important: it motivates you to work hard, train well”
It was thought during the 2016/17 campaign that Morata, should he move to the Premier League, would end up at Stamford Bridge to rival – or perhaps replace – Diego Costa, but with Chelsea seemingly set on securing the services of Romelu Lukaku – which could, according to reports, cost them up to £90m – any deal for Morata is highly unlikely.
The details of a hugely attractive package have, after all, been largely agreed, with the only obstacle now being whether the two clubs can agree on a figure.