Cobham (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has told Serbia midfielder Nemanja Matic he won’t be allowed to leave Stamford Bridge despite interest from Italian champions Juventus.
Reports in Italy claim Juventus are considering a bid for Matic as they look to replace Paul Pogba after the France star’s move to Manchester United.
Securing a world record fee of £89 million ($116m, 105m euros) for Pogba means Juve might have the cash to persuade Chelsea to sell a player who was disappointing last season.
But Conte, who arrived at Chelsea in July after finishing his role as Italy boss, has spoken to Matic about the situation and made it clear he has no intention of letting the 28-year-old go.
“Nemanja is an important player for me, and he knows this,” Conte told reporters at Chelsea’s training ground on Friday.
“There isn’t a problem with him. Nemanja was a Chelsea player and is a Chelsea player.”
Matic was one of numerous Chelsea players reported to have grown disillusioned with the hardline style of Jose Mourinho, a relationship breakdown that led to the Portuguese boss being sacked last December.
Even after Mourinho’s departure, Chelsea were still a shadow of the team that romped to the Premier League title in 2015 and Conte admitted he has been trying to find out what went wrong during their dismal 10th-place finish.
“I speak a lot with my players, all my players. Usually when you arrive at a new club it’s important to get to know the players, all the aspects,” the former Juventus manager said.
“It’s important to speak with all the players, to understand, to listen, why the last season was so bad.
“Because for the coach, for the first time arriving it’s important to go inside, into the head of the players to understand and solve the situation.
“It is important to find the right confidence. This team lost their confidence a bit last season, but two years ago they won the title. ”
– Gone stale –
While title rivals Manchester United and Manchester City have both spent over £100 million on new signings during the close-season, Conte has signed just two players so far.
France midfielder N’Golo Kante joined from Leicester City and Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi was recruited from Marseille, with both players costing around £30 million.
Conte would like more new faces as he tries to put his imprint on a squad gone stale, but he claims the inflated prices being quoted for his targets are proving a problem.
“For all the clubs, it’s a crazy transfer market. When you try to buy one or another player, the cost is very, very expensive, and not the real valuation of the player,” he said.
“It’s a very strange situation. Chelsea is waiting for the right solution and in this moment it is not easy for us.”
Conte, who confirmed young striker Bertrand Traore is due to join Ajax on loan, will get his first taste of the Premier League on Monday when Chelsea face London rivals West Ham United at the Bridge.
“This league is a fantastic league. It’s very tough. The most important in the world,” the Italian said.
“There are many great clubs fighting to win the title. It’s fantastic challenge for me. For this reason I’m not that much relaxed.
“It will be a great battle. I’m excited. We have a good situation to fight (for the title).”
Conte is enjoying the process of adapting to a new football culture and hasn’t been shy of trying to bend it to his will, with reports he has banned pizza and ketchup from the players’ canteen.
“Every single manager must try to improve the players in every aspect. Not only tactical, also their recovery after the game and to avoid injuries,” Conte said.
“I try to transfer this to my players. Then the players understand if this is good for them or not.”
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