Antonio Conte has said that Real Madrid’s public pursuit of Eden Hazard is a compliment rather than a distraction to Chelsea, but reiterated that he wants the Premier League title to be just the start of their success.
Speculation that Hazard is set to join Madrid this summer gathered pace over the international break but Conte refused to be drawn into a definitive statement on the Belgium international’s future in his Friday news conference.
Asked if Chelsea are willing to consider any offers for Hazard this summer, Conte said: “I don’t know, I know. I repeat always the same thing: now it’s important for my players to focus on the present and not look too far forward, because that’s very dangerous.
“Eden is a Chelsea player, our player, we are happy with him and he is happy with us. I don’t see problems about him.”
The public nature of Madrid’s pursuit is widely considered to be an attempt to unsettle Hazard, but Conte is not worried.
“This is a part of the game, to put these rumours out there and put a bit of difficulty in the mind of the players,” he added. “But we have great experience of facing this situation, and so do my players.
“It’s normal to start rumours about our players at this stage of the season. It means we are doing a great job, so I’m happy. If Chelsea’s players are linked with other teams, it means they are doing very well.
“But I repeat: I think that, now, we stay already in a great club with great ambition. We want to build something important for the present and the future. I think we have just started [on] our path.”
Asked if he had spoken to Hazard about the Madrid reports, Conte said: “No, no. I don’t think it’s important to talk with him. I like to talk to him about this season, about the importance of this game.
“He missed the last game against Stoke City and his form, we have to check his form. But I hope he stays very well and shows great things, to play great football. I like to talk about this, not other things.”
Hazard withdrew from Belgium duty with a calf problem, but Conte expects him to be in condition to play “really well” against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Conte says he will have to check “two or three situations” elsewhere before naming his team, with Thibaut Courtois (hip), Victor Moses (calf) and Diego Costa (ankle) appearing to be the biggest doubts as they battle injuries that limited their international involvement.
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