Antonio Conte believes Thibaut Courtois can become one of the all-time great keepers.
Courtois’ form this season has brought admiring glances from Real Madrid, but Conte says Chelsea have no intention of letting him go.
The Blues boss worked with Gianluigi Buffon and is confident 24-year-old Courtois can emulate the Italy legend.
Conte said: “Thibaut is, for me, one of the best – if not the best – goalkeepers in the world. He’s working really well. He’s a fantastic goalkeeper. He stays with us and this is the most important thing.
“I hope for Thibaut to repeat the same career as Gigi Buffon.
“I think that Buffon, for me, is one of the best goalkeepers of all time. I stayed with him at Juventus before as team-mates and then as his coach, in the national team also.
“I think Buffon is a legend for football and I hope Thibaut has the same career as Gigi.
“He has great potential to continue to do great things, to reach great targets.
“Look, Thibaut is a Chelsea player and I want him to stay here. I think he’s very happy. I see him with this club for many years. I want this, the club wants this. I don’t see any problem.
“A contract is a club decision. But, in my opinion, yes, I think that a goalkeeper like Thibaut deserves to stay at Chelsea for many years and become a type of player to stay and write the story of this club, to become a legend at this club.”
Real Madrid have been playing a long game in trying to recruit the Belgium international, even sending him a get well soon card last season when he was injured.
Conte insisted he had no problem with Real contacting his players to wish them well – and jokingly suggested Chelsea might start doing the same.
The Italian said: “I think that was very good of Real Madrid – to send a message.
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Conte responds to Wenger’s super favourites comments
“I think it’s good if a great club like Real Madrid sends a message to players who, at that moment, had a bad injury. But I think it’s good. Maybe, in the future, I’d like to do the same to them.
“I think it’s a good situation for another club to send a message.
“I repeat, I can do this in the future for other players who, in that moment, are injured.”
* ANTONIO CONTE has claimed Chinese clubs are “not right” to spend so much in trying to sign big-name players.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the latest player to be targeted by China after it was revealed a £250million offer was tabled for the Real Madrid superstar.
But the Chelsea boss, who has sold midfielder Oscar to China’s Shanghai SIPG for £60m, believes the money is getting out of control – after it emerged ex-West Ham, Manchester United and Man City striker Carlos Tevez has signed a £500,000-a-week deal at Shanghai Shenhua.
Conte said: “It’s not right as you must have respect for the money and I don’t agree with this situation.”