The Blues boss is keen to see the Belgian international remain at the club but admits it is not his final decision on whether to agree to his demands
Antonio Conte admits he has no power to keep Thibaut Courtois, who has made no progress over a contract renewal at Chelsea, but he thinks that the Blues goalkeeper is destined for greatness.
Courtois has just a year and a half left on his contract at Chelsea and recently said that he will halt any renewal discussions until the summer. He is understood to have asked to double his wages from around £100,000-a-week to £200,000-a-week, matching the earnings of Manchester United’s goalkeeper David De Gea.
Chelsea’s director Marina Graniskovaia has the final say on whether the Blues will give Courtois what he wants during contract negotiations but the goalkeeper has leverage in the situation with Real Madrid interested in signing him. And Conte thinks this is how it should be, as he explained his role in the situation around Courtois’ contract.
“I must be honest I think this question is for the club not for me,” Conte said when asked about renewing Courtois’s contract. “I like to give my opinion about technical decisions but it is also important for the club to face this issue, this contract with Courtois.
“I can tell you he is one of the best, maybe he is the best goalkeeper in the world and he is a very important player for Chelsea but the renewal of contract is a task for the club. I repeat, for me every single player is important and I like to work with these players but as you know very well everyone can take a different decision.
“I like to work with these players but I want that they are very happy to stay at Chelsea. I think that Thibaut didn’t need my opinion [to decide to stay at Chelsea when I joined the club]. He knows very well what are my thoughts about him. I consider him one of the best.
“For sure, he will be the best in the world, maybe he is now the best but for sure the future is for this goalkeeper. He knows my opinion and my thoughts about him.”
Chelsea got back from Baku after playing in the Champions League against Qarabag just before five in the morning. Some of Chelsea’s first team players didn’t get to sleep until 6 a.m. and Conte’s side have had a day less to prepare for the Liverpool game than Jurgen Klopp’s men.
However, Conte did manage to rest a number of key players including Alvaro Morata, who only saw limited action after coming off the bench for Eden Hazard in the 65th minute with the game already won. Conte is likely to recall Morata for the match on Saturday and he responded to questions asking him to compare the forward’s impact with Liverpool’s star signing Mohamed Salah.
“[Mohamed] Salah start was important because he is scoring a lot of goals and makes a lot of assist during the game,” Conte said of the former Chelsea player who now lines up at Anfield. “His start was very positive but the most important thing for Alvaro [Morata] was the same.
“To my team and for me it was very important for Alvaro to have an impressive start in this league. He is an important player for us. For me the striker is very important to have a point of reference to do what I want is very important.
“In our system, the striker is a figure very important for us and for this reason he is always involved in our chances. Sometimes he scores, sometimes he makes an assist for his team-mate.
“To play in this league for a striker is not simple because this league is very tough and also it is very different compared with the previous leagues that he played in, Italy and Spain. He showed great commitment and to be a clever person to adapt himself to this league.”
Chelsea are currently nine points off the Premier League leaders Manchester City and a defeat in Liverpool might seriously harm the Blues’ hopes of retaining their league title.
Conte admits that it is a difficult task to compete with Pep Guardiola’s side, who are not only winning but beating teams comfortably in the Premier League. The Chelsea boss thinks City’s run compares to his own side’s run of last season.
“I remember in last season also the other coaches said ‘yes, we need to win but if they [Chelsea] continue to win it will be impossible to catch up with them’, but at the same time we have to look at ourselves.
“[We need to] try to improve every game, improve the new players, try to build something important for the present but also for the future. We are trying to build something important for this club, we changed a lot of players and we are trying to fight for every competition
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“If I don’t remember badly, we start this season and for all the people the contenders for the title were only two teams, the two Manchester clubs. Sometimes people forget this forecast but I think in this league there are six top teams and every team has to try and fight until the end for the title.
“At the same time every season there are the favourites and a table of favourites but last season we changed this table and, for sure, Liverpool are a really good team and has the potential to fight for the title. And I am sure Liverpool want to stay and fight until the end for the title.
“If Manchester City continues this way it will be very difficult to arrive at the end of the season and fight for the title. If they continue in this way it will be impossible to fight for the title.”