New Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has made it clear in no uncertain terms that the club’s combative midfielder Nemanja Matic is not for sale, amid interest from Juventus.
The press in Italy have linked the Serie A champions with a move for the Serbian following the arrival of N’Golo Kante at Stamford Bridge. It’s believed that the £32 million signing of the Leicester City midfielder has made Matic surplus to requirements in West London and that the club’s former boss might do his old team a favour by letting the 27-year-old head to Italy.
Conte has refuted that notion, however, declaring that Matic is ‘important’ for the future of Chelsea. The Serbia international has three years left on his contract and is keen to remain at Stamford Bridge and fight for his place under the former Italy national coach.
Conte said, “Matic is an important player for me, a very important player. In my idea of football he is an important player and he knows this”. The Italian went on to say that there is a competition for places in the Chelsea squad and that that is important for the club’s chances of success. “N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc [Fabregas], Oscar, [Nathaniel] Chalobah and [John Obi] Mikel, who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem”.
The former Juventus manager believes that fostering a good sense of team spirit is important after a fraught campaign last time out. The Blues went into last season as defending Premier League champions but got off to the worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1960s. Former fan favourite manager José Mourinho was sacked in December and Dutchman Guus Hiddink was brought in to replace him on an interim basis.
Referring to the troubles of last season Conte said, “When you have a bad season like last season for Chelsea I think the blame is a bit with all. For this reason it’s important to create a good spirit and stay together, both if we win or lose”.
Chelsea are currently in America for their pre-season tour and are preparing to face Premier League rivals Liverpool in a friendly at California’s Rose Bowl on Thursday. Conte believes it will give his team a chance to get better and improve their fitness before going into the new season. He said, “In these two days we worked a lot, but we want to play a good game against Liverpool and I want to see improvement of my players”.