Antonio Conte will not stand it the way of players such as Willian should they wish to leave Chelsea in the summer and claims anyone who does not feel love for the club cannot be part of his long-term project.
The Brazil international won Chelsea’s player of the year award last season but has been restricted to just 14 Premier League starts this term following the emergence of Victor Moses and the stellar form of Pedro.
Willian, along with the likes of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, have been linked summer moves with the former Shakhtar Donetsk player fueling speculation of a move to Manchester United by claiming he will always hold a special affection for Mourinho.
The form of Victor Moses has restricted Willian’s Premier League opportunities this season (Picture: Getty)
Pedro has weighed in with eight goals and eights assists in the Premier League this season (Picture: Getty)
‘First of all the player must have pleasure to stay in Chelsea – this is the first important thing,’ said Conte, responding to reports of his star players leaving in the summer.
‘For me this is very important. Every player that wants to stay has to have the pleasure to stay.’
Willian to Man United | Chelsea star reveals respect for Mourinho
‘When I went to Shakhtar with Lucescu. When I left Shakhtar, in a very short spell at Anzhi with Guus Hiddink, I learned a lot. And then here at Chelsea with Mourinho, a manager who helped me a lot, I learned a lot from him. So with all of them I learned a lot. But we always have a special affection for somebody, and you feel that, that it is reciprocal of him. And we’re not even working together anymore, but we’ve become friends. And it’s Mourinho. The coach who has helped me since my arrival at Chelsea. That backed me, that put me to play, that relied on my potential, that relied on my work. So no doubt I have affection for all, but Mourinho was a guy that I have a special affection and helped me a lot.’
Conte’s own future remains far from certain with Inter reportedly refusing to give up on prising him away from Stamford Bridge this summer.
The Italian appeared to commit his future to Chelsea last week in the aftermath of their title-clinching victory over West Brom, but ahead of Sunday’s game against Sunderland the former Juventus boss insisted talks with the club would have to wait until the summer.
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He added: ‘It is important to repeat that I have two years to go. For me and the players it is very important to finish in this season and reach our target.
‘Now is important to be focused on these targets, the team is more important than individuals.’