Conte making the right move
As Chelsea pull off a major coup, our columnist looks at the major transfer business and argues that their Italian manager is well set to overtake his rivals in attracting effective star names
1 KANTE CAN DO IT FOR CHELSEA
N'Golo Kante is an early contender for signing of the season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic titillates the tabloids and promises sack-loads of shirt sales, but his best years are behind him.
Kante's time is now.
Ironically, the Swede is tipped to have an Eric Cantona-like influence on Manchester United, but the unassuming French midfielder bears closer resemblance to his legendary countryman.
Cantona swopped English clubs and won league titles in consecutive seasons and Kante (above) is already halfway there.
Jamie Vardy had Hollywood hearts fluttering at Leicester City and Danny Drinkwater delighted the frustrated artist in all of us (except Roy Hodgson, of course), but Kante was the quiet rage in the machine.
He made more tackles and interceptions than any other player in the Premier League last season and carried that form into the Euros.
France were so often a different proposition when he was involved, adding a steeliness that liberated Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet.
His quiet reserve incorrectly portrays an easy-going character simply content to play football.
But the 25-year-old's midfield tenacity and insatiable ambition found their way into the Chelsea boardroom at the weekend, when he signed on for Antonio Conte's revolution.
The signing should send shockwaves through the transfer market and suggest a correction is already taking place.
Initially, the optimistic view was the massive TV revenues - instantly making every Premier League club fabulously wealthy - would level the playing field.
But Kante has swopped the EPL champions and Champions League participants for no European football whatsoever.
Kante has signed for an established brand, a formidable manager and an obscene salary.
How he prioritised those three is neither here nor there.
He rejected the new kids on the block for a traditional powerhouse.
Others will surely follow Kante and Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi towards Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola made an early splash in the transfer market, but the Kante signing creates bigger ripples.
Conte plus crazy amounts of cash appear to be an enticing prospect for Europe's leading properties.
2 AGEING WIZARD NOT ENOUGH
Ibrahimovic and Mourinho adore each other.
Since their all-to-brief relationship at Inter Milan, lasting just a season, their mutual-appreciation society has flourished.
But their partnership won't be enough at Old Trafford.
United fans are hoping for a galvanising influence not seen since Cantona.
Mourinho sceptics fear another Samuel Eto'o.
Ibrahimovic (above) will be 35 in October and may struggle to acclimatise after the extended honeymoon at Paris Saint-Germain.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan may prove a more productive signing in the long term.
The Armenia midfielder came with a £26 million ($46m) price tag, and promises the speed of thought and deed that United have lacked since Paul Scholes' retirement.
He impressed in a friendly against Wigan, but Mourinho must still oversee a major clear-out of underwhelming players.
Eric Bailly, the Ivorian centre back, seems to be a successor for the erratic Daley Blind, but he won't be enough.
A fullback, another midfielder and the kind of industrious, inverted winger that Mourinho likes - but feels that Juan Mata isn't - are on the shopping list.
Ibrahimovic's shoulders are broad. They carry that swollen head.
But they can't carry United to the title.
3 CITY'S WILD POGBA CHASE
According to Paul Pogba's agent, everyone is interested in the Great £100 Million Race to sign the Great Midfielder of Our Time.
Euro 2016 suggested otherwise. It seems that only Pogba's agent is interested in the £100m race.
The French midfielder's inconsistency on home soil should've halved that insane transfer estimate, but football exists in an insane vacuum.
Manchester City are one of the few clubs where £100m would be a drop in their oily ocean and Guardiola boasts the coaching calibre that'd satisfy Pogba's (above) ego.
In British newspapers, the two are linked on a daily basis and Guardiola's lightweight midfield could certainly use the galloping gazelle.
But Guardiola has settled on Ilkay Gundogan, instead. A bustling automaton at Borussia Dortmund, he's also injury-prone.
The 25-year-old German missed both the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 through injuries and won't be fit until mid-August, at least.
In an EPL season that's expected to explode out of the gates, City's powderpuff midfield is at risk of being blown away in the early exchanges.
Aside from Nolito, the 29-year-old forward who impressed in fits and starts for Spain, Guardiola hasn't ticked enough boxes.
He needs a trolley dash around the transfer market in the coming weeks.
As it stands, City lack the personnel to seriously challenge for the title.
4 WENGER'S SEARCH FOR STRIKER
Apart from Chelsea and the two halves of Manchester, the other major participants are dithering in the transfer market.
At Arsenal, their eternally indecisive manager, Arsene Wenger, started brightly with the £30m capture of Granit Xhaka, but stalled quickly.
Gonzalo Higuain (above) is an expensive, but perhaps necessary choice.
The Euro 2016 final had to convince Wenger that when a trophy is on the line, when the contest really matters, penalty-box responsibilities shouldn't rest with Olivier Giroud.
PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP
5 TOO QUIET TO CALL
Liverpool signed Sadio Mane from Southampton, who also lost Victor Wanyama to Tottenham, and Leicester broke their transfer record to bring in CSKA Moscow's Ahmed Musa.
The Nigerian forward (above) came in for £16m to play alongside Vardy, one of the few prized assets to settle his affairs early.
Many of the others are up for grabs, including top Fox Riyad Mahrez.
Chelsea are said to be circling once more. Kante's signing was an irrefutable statement of intent.
Owner Roman Abramovich doesn't take kindly to failure in successive seasons. Conte doesn't entertain failure in any season.
If money is likely to be no object, then the manager may do the rest, attracting the kind of footballer who wouldn't ordinarily cross the street to visit a club outside of the Champions League.
United and City are making moves as the other contenders hedge their bets, presumably contemplating the fallout from Euro 2016.
But Conte is quietly plotting already, replicating his work with Italy and making the most of his resources.
Only this time, the resources are limitless.
We identified him — me and the club together — and I think Kante can give a lot to Chelsea, to enforce a zone which is very important if we want to play with two central midfielders.
— Blues boss Antonio Conte, on N’Golo Kante
I talk every day with the club. It’s very important because we know what the team need. Myself and the club are on the same line and we know what to do to improve the team.
Conte, on Chelsea’s transfer plans