‘England is the best league so players will stay’
LONDON: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is not wary of big-spending Chinese clubs poaching his players amid reports that a lucrative offer from Far East has unsettled Premier League’s joint-top scorer Diego Costa.
Oscar and John Obi Mikel have already left Chelsea to join Chinese Super League sides in the January transfer window, while media reports suggest playmaker Willian is also on the radar.
“I think we are a great club and it’s a great honour to play for Chelsea and for this reason I don’t see (China) as a threat for my players. The money is not everything,” Conte said.
“When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased. I have to look at the past. Oscar played with us, had a good offer from China and he went,” Conte added.
“But this league is really competitive and every player wants to come and play in this league.
“This league is the first in the world because of a lot of positive things. For this reason, I don’t think these offers from China are a threat for our league.”
Costa missed Saturday’s 3-0 win over Leicester City and Conte said it was due through a back injury even if speculation was strife about a possible Chinese offer for the striker.
Conte said he was pleased with the way his side has responded after Tottenham Hotspur ended their 13-games winning run this month.
“When you win 13 in a row and then you arrive at the moment where you suffer a defeat, to restart is not easy,” the Italian said.
“I know this from when I was a footballer and I understand, the psychological aspect is very important.
“But I think we started very well in the FA Cup and in the league to win against a team that is very tough and with really good players and a good manager.”
Leaders Chelsea host thirdfrom-bottom Hull City on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino has urged his Spurs side to draw on the experience of their failed title bid last season to launch a successful assault for the Premier League trophy this campaign.
Tottenham chased Leicester for much of last season but wilted in the final weeks to eventually finish third, below the Foxes and north London rivals Arsenal.
Tottenham’s 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday lifted the club to second in the table, seven points behind leaders Chelsea after 21 games, and their sixth league win in a row has shown last year’s tilt was not a one-off.
“Last season was the first time for 99 percent of the players fighting to win the Premier League and the important thing is that you are clever. We are showing that we are clever and we learn a lot,” Pochettino said.
“We are showing after 21 games that we can compete and we are in a very good position. It is true that the gap with Chelsea is still big, but there are a lot of games ahead until the end of the season.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Conte have previously expressed their concern that a growing number of players could be lured to China and Pochettino struck a more cautious tone.
“It’s crazy money, it looks like they broke the market. If it’s true, it’s unbelievable but we will see what happens.” – Reuters