Antonio Conte has fired a warning to Chelsea over the club's ambition as they find themselves 22 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City ahead of a meeting between the two sides on Sunday.
City have European football's highest-paid manager in Pep Guardiola and have had a higher net expenditure on players than Chelsea for the last five years, and the man in charge of the Blues is not sure of the direction his side are heading despite having claimed the English top-flight title in 2016-17.
Conte is now on the verge of handing that crown over to City, but the Italian has made it clear that he wants to win everything available as a coach.
“I have great ambition, but I don't have money to spend for Chelsea," Conte told reporters at his pre-weekend press conference. "The club knows very well what is my idea, what is my ambition. That is very clear.
"That ambition must always be the same. When you decide to work with this type of coach, you must understand that you take a coach with great ambition. Not a loser but a winner. For this reason, you must understand this.
“I don't know [if the Chelsea board share my ambition]. I don't want to talk about this. Now it's important the present, and staying to be focused on the present. These topics are for the future.
“For sure, but when you have a good manager and a lot of money to spend, probably you can have a successful season. If you have a good manager to work very well with the players, and a lot of money to spend.
"It's very important to have the coach and the club with the same ambition: to improve the team, to improve the idea of football, to improve the quality of your players. If you find this situation, probably the season will finish with success.
"You can win the league, the cup, the cup and league, the Champions League. You start the season trying to do your best. I think we are doing our best. We are trying to do everything for this club. We are continuing to do this.
"But this league is very tough and will be very tough especially in the future, because there are a lot of teams improving in a fantastic way. We have to know this and accept this and find a new solution for the future.”
Conte's Chelsea are estimated to have spent more than £350 million on players since he arrived in west London, but the club has raised more than £260m through player sales. Meanwhile, Guardiola has spent more than £450m with Manchester City, having sold just over £100m worth of talent.
Conte thinks that although City have had more to spend than Chelsea, Guardiola deserves great respect for bringing it all together.
He added: “I have great admiration for Pep. Pep showed himself to be a great coach. I think that, now, it will be very difficult for other teams to fight Manchester City. When you have a great coach and the possibility to spend a lot of money and keep happy your coach and your staff, it's difficult for the others.
"Very difficult. This is not the first time I'm telling this. This is a great danger for the panoramic of the other teams. For a long time. The situation is going to improve. Not to stop, but to improve for them.
“I think that last season we did a fantastic job. We were a great surprise for the league, but also for our competitors. Our competitors didn't rate Chelsea in this way to fight for the title, to win the title. But then, when you start, you have to continue to build something important with the coach."
Conte admits that the race for the Premier League ended early this season, with that a source of frustration for an ambitious manager and a team who entered the campaign intending to stage a stronger defence of their trophy.
“I think that the players and I, and the club, we must be happy not to fight for the title, or to fight for something important.
"Because the league finished after the first part of the season. The league finished this season. Manchester City won it in the first part of the season.
"This must be a great frustration for me, for my players, for my club. If your name is Chelsea, you have to try to fight until the end. For this reason, we must have great frustration for this.”