Antonio Conte has told Eden Hazard to forget joining Real Madrid – and dropped a big hint on his own Chelsea future.
Real Madrid have made Hazard their No1 transfer target this summer as the Spanish giants are ready to smash through the £100m barrier and offer Alvaro Morata in any deal.
But Conte was unusually bullish about Chelsea’s long term plans as he promised they are building “something good” and are ready to be genuine European contenders again.
That will be music to the ears of Chelsea fans as Inter Milan’s interest in Conte will not go away especially after the Italian’s remarkable first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are ready to offer Hazard a new £300,000-a-week contract to fend off Real Madrid’s interest and Conte insists they are strong enough to keep their prize asset.
Conte said: “In this situation I think the will of the player is very important.
“If the player is happy and the player knows he will stay in a great team with great ambition, I don’t see any problem. Even if this (other) club calls itself Real Madrid.
“We are in a great club. We started to build something good for the future, and the ambitions of this club are the same as mine and my players.
“We stay in the right place if you want to be competitive in the game, be competitive in the future. I hope to play in the Champions League next season.
“I’m sure about this, that you’d be staying in the right place, in a great club with great ambition. I can tell this with 100 per cent.
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“I think it’s very important to stay, to feel that you stay in the right place with ambition. This type of player, when you arrive at being a top player, you want to fight to win and be competitive in every trophy you have to play for.
“I think, I repeat, we are building something important together. We have just started our building (work). Now we are putting the foundations in.
“If we are able to win the league this season, I repeat, I think we’ll be doing an incredible path, an incredible thing because we are in a moment that the club is in transition.
“A lot of old players have finished their careers with Chelsea. To win this season is great. I think we are putting great foundations down to build something important for the future. I think the players feel this.”
Conte himself has, of course, been linked with Inter as their Chinese backers want him and believe they can lure him back to Italy.
Former Italy and Juventus boss Conte will also be offered a new contract by Chelsea this summer and they are expected to give him a significant upgrade on the £5m-a-year left on his deal which expires in 2019.
But part of the concern is that Chelsea show ambition to keep him as Diego Costa is set to go and Conte wants major reinforcements.
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is top of his list, Conte called Alexis Sanchez a “top player” but a traditional centre forward and defenders are his personal priority.
Conte added: “For us the most important thing is for us to try and finish this league and try to win. Then, once this season is finished, with the club together we will talk about the right way to try and improve our team and our squad.
“That will be very important, but I don’t see any problems about this. This club has great ambitions. It was so in the past, and it will be so in the future. I’m very happy to be coach of this club.”