London (AFP) – Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte could not be persuaded to put a price on star man Eden Hazard on Friday.
The Belgian winger scored a magnificent solo goal in Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Arsenal last weekend, taking his tally for the campaign to 10 goals and leaving his side nine points clear atop the Premier League.
His previous manager, Jose Mourinho, valued Hazard at “£100 million ($124.8 million, 117.3 million euros) per leg”, but Conte shied away from offering a valuation.
“I’m not very good to put a price on a player,” the Italian told a press conference at Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham, southwest of London.
“I think Eden, for sure, is a great player. A top player. He’s in a level very high. But I don’t see the problem, because we don’t want to sell him. He hasn’t a price now.”
Hazard, 26, was substituted towards the end of the game against Arsenal and Conte revealed he had taken him off to give the Stamford Bridge faithful a chance to show their appreciation.
“I wanted to give him a great applause of our fans,” Conte said.
“I think he deserved this for the game that he played, not only with the ball, but above all without the ball.
“When I make a substitution there is always a reason. Sometimes I try to preserve some players. Sometimes there is a technical choice.”
Having drawn 1-1 at Liverpool prior to the victory over Arsenal, Chelsea have won 16 of their last 18 league games, also dropping points in a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on January 4.
Conte takes his side to Burnley on Sunday and while the Clarets sit 12th in the table, he is fully aware that their home record is bettered by only Chelsea and Tottenham.
– ‘Six teams’ in race –
“When you arrive after two really tough games against Liverpool and Arsenal it’s important to keep continuity and to try to win this game. It won’t be easy, this,” Conte said.
“The stats show Burnley are a really strong team at home. Burnley took 28 points at home and only one point away. They won the last five games (at home). We must pay great attention.”
With Tottenham playing at Liverpool on Saturday, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have an opportunity to trim Chelsea’s lead to six points, but Conte believes his players would not be perturbed.
“If we play before or the other teams play before us, the pressure is always the same,” he said.
“If the opponent wins the game and reduces the gap, if the opponent doesn’t win the game and you have the possibility to take more points, I think we have the right experience to live this situation.
“If we think that we have (a lead of) nine points and we are very close to winning the title, it’s a great mistake.
“There are 14 games to play. They are five teams, with Chelsea six teams, that can fight until the end to win the title. It’s important now, don’t (make a) great mistake in this race.”
Chelsea have no new injury concerns, but Conte hailed centre-back David Luiz as a “warrior” for playing through the pain of a knee injury inflicted by Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero in December.
Cesc Fabregas and Willian will hope to come into the starting XI at Turf Moor, having both come off the bench against Arsenal.
Conte professed ignorance when asked about reports Mourinho’s Manchester United made an approach for Willian last year.
“I don’t know about this,” he said. “It’s news for me and not important. For me now the most important thing is the present.”
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