Antonio Conte admitted that Chelsea are no longer among the world's richest clubs after losing out to the Manchester clubs for Alexis Sanchez in the January transfer window.
Goal understands that Chelsea did try to sign Sanchez in the summer but dropped their interest ahead of the January transfer window, despite reports on the contrary after Manchester City gave United a free run to bring him in by dropping out fo the race.
Sanchez now earns more than double Chelsea's highest paid player Eden Hazard with his £500,000-a-week salary, far above Hazard's current £220,000-a-week contract.
Manchester United's financial might currently far exceeds Chelsea's, while Manchester City are seeing on pitch success with Pep Guardiola at the helm and have outspent Chelsea every year since 2012-13.
Conte wanted to make it clear that Chelsea have to find a cheaper way to win trophies at the moment.
“What happened three years, 10 years or eight years ago was totally different," Conte told reporters at Cobham Training Centre. "Now I think that we have to fight. We have to fight with our work. I think last season we won the league and finished with £50m [profit, helped by player sales]. No one says this.
"We won the league and reached the FA Cup final, and we finished with a profit of £50m in the transfer market. In the past, this had never happened. For this reason, the situation changed. When the situation changes, you have to fight to try to give all of yourself for Chelsea.
"Now, for sure, United and Manchester City stay there, stay there [at the top, financially]. The first thing is I trust in my work. And I think that, if I stay here, for this reason, it'll be because the club trusts in my work. And not only the money.
"You can do two types of football: only with money and you pay a lot of money and take the best players; the other way is to try and put a bit of money in and then hard work. We are in the middle. We are working and trying to do our best during the transfer market.
“Last season I think we did a fantastic job and did a little miracle. I repeat, this season is showing this. For me, this is already a good season. Because we are doing 120 per cent.
"I'm doing a fantastic job, the same as my players. It's not important if you reach the final or win a trophy or win the league. The most important thing is to see if the coach and players are working very hard and very well. This, for me, is a successful season.
“I think, for sure, in this moment there are two teams in this league who are 'top'. They stay there. The others have to fight. To fight for a place in the Champions League.”
Chelsea have roughly broken even in their past three transfer windows after announcing at the start of the month that they made a £69.2m profit on player trading ahead of last summer's transfer window.
The club are now looking to spend around £50 million before the end of the current winter market with Roma pair Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmieri lined up.
However, some fans have complained about their club not being in the running for Sanchez, who was unveiled by United in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Conte says that Chelsea weren't able to battle it out over financial terms with the clubs in Manchester and opted to stay away, despite his admiration for him.
“We never were in this race. Ever. Especially because, I repeat, one of the reasons was this amount of salary. I think, as you know very well, you go in the transfer market you have to know that, if you want the best, you have to spend a lot of money.
"Otherwise you have to go in the middle and spend £20-30m. If you want to reach the best targets, you must be prepared to spend a lot of money. This is the truth. Sometimes I'm surprised with this kind of question because I don't understand why sometimes someone doesn't want to see the truth. See the reality.
"This is the market. This is the market. It's normal that, if you want to buy Neymar, you must be ready to give him €25m. If you want to buy [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, now Sanchez the same, you must be ready to pay his salary. It depends upon the targets, the players you want to buy.
"Now, it's not negative. It's the truth. If you have money you can spend it and have the best players. Otherwise you find other ways to stand up and fight. I must be honest, if a player earns a lot of money, it's because he is the best.
"Ronaldo scores 50 goals every season, Messi scores 50 goals every season, Neymar does the same. Every player has to understand his level. Not say: 'Hold on, he takes €30m.' Yes, because he scores 50 goals. If you score 10 or 15 goals, you're in the middle. Stop.
"But it's the same for the coach. If you don't win or never win the league, or a trophy, you can say you are the best. But the best win. If you win, ask. If you don't win, don't ask [for a pay rise].
“It's the same now as the Sanchez buy. Now I think Manchester United and Manchester City stay at the top. We have to try and build something important to create a base, and then make success with our work. Not with money. With work.
"For sure United have paid it. But I don't know [about] the other teams. But, I repeat, the most important thing is we're not worried. If you trust in your work and have the patience, and you can understand the right moment, you can improve through work to try and fight these big teams.
“I think we have to do a big work, and we need to improve with this team. To improve the squad. To create this basis. Don't forget, in the last couple of years, we lost a lot of old players who wrote the history of this club. There is... I don't like this word, 'transition', but sometimes you have to stop yourself and see the truth.”