Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella has revealed Chelsea wanted to sign him in January and concrete talks were held.
Barella was linked with a host of clubs this past summer and there was a tussle involving Roma and Inter before the nerazzurri sealed his signature when the capital side failed to meet Cagliari's asking price for the Italian. He signed on an initial loan deal with the obligation to buy.
In an interview that Barella gave to Gazzetta dello Sport
, he was asked about whether he was close to playing under Maurizio Sarri.
He said: "If he could have been my coach? Yes, Chelsea had been looking for me in January, the negotiation was concrete. At Cagliari I said: it is not an easy time for the team, I will stay until the end of the season. Then I will make a decision." On the upcoming Derby D'Italia, he said: "Equal match? Yes. Juve has more than just the experience, the fact of having known each other for the longest time as a group.
"But the coach immediately asked us for clear-cut things and we are putting it into practice, that's why I say we are at par. Juventus won the championship with 21 points ahead last year: we want to fill the gap, we will see if we succeed in the end."
Barella has been key for Inter this season and has become a vital member of the Conte side. Alongside Stefano Sensi and Marcelo Brozovic, he has formed a midfield that has helped Inter reach the top of the league.
So far this season, the 22-year-old has made six appearances in the Serie A, out which three have been starts. He has also appeared twice in the Champions League, scoring once against Slavia Prague in the opener two weeks ago.