LONDON – Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes the FA Cup winners need to spend heavily if they are to challenge for the Premier League title next season.
Eden Hazard’s 22nd-minute penalty saw Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.
But that could not disguise the fact that the Londoners, champions in the previous season, finished a massive 30 points behind title-winners Manchester City.
There has long been speculation linking Courtois with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, while Chelsea manager Antonio Conte could be on his way out of Stamford Bridge despite the FA Cup triumph.
The Blues were known for spending lavishly under Russian owner Roman Abramovich, but the billionaire now finds himself effectively going up against a state in City’s Sheikh Mansour, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and a deputy president of the United Arab Emirates.
Courtois, 26, was vague over Italian manager Conte’s future, saying “whatever he or the club decides, they will know what they do”, and the Belgium international refused to give any guarantees about whether he would be staying in west London.
“Like I said in the last weeks or months, I think we’ll see after the World Cup whether I am a Chelsea player for next year,” Courtois said. “We’ll see what is going to happen after the World Cup.”
Courtois, whose contract is about to expire, was asked if Chelsea needed to bolster their squad if they were to make a title challenge next season.
“Yeah, I think so,” he replied. “I think especially if you see how City and (Manchester) United are spending and working.
“I think if we want to aim for the top, we should do the same – obviously within the limits of what’s possible as well.”
Courtois added: “I think that the transfer market has gone pretty crazy. Nowadays you pay £80 million for a defender I think – that’s crazy figures.
“We’ll see what’s going on, and I am sure the board will do what needs to be done.”
Courtois was happy to have helped Chelsea win the FA Cup, but not with a season where they finished fifth in the league.
“Well, satisfaction because we won a trophy,” he said.
“I am very happy about that but obviously missing out on the Champions League is not what we hoped for, but we have to keep working next year and have a good season again and add some more trophies.
“After a season with ups and downs, I think this feels really good. It is a good way to finish this year.”
Meanwhile, Willian appeared to be one Chelsea player who hoped Conte would be leaving the club.
A photograph was posted on the Brazilian midfielder’s Instagram page in which Conte had been obscured by three trophy emojis in a picture of the whole team celebrating their FA Cup win.
Willian only featured as a late substitute in the Cup final, and started only 20 Premier League matches last season, making a further 16 appearances off the bench.
He did not start after reacting angrily to being substituted by Conte in the FA Cup semi-final win against Southampton on April 22.AFP