LONDON: Antonio Conte insists Chelsea defender John Terry won’t be allowed to leave the Premier League leaders during the January transfer window.
Terry has been unable to nail down a first team place since returning from injury and the Chelsea captain was linked with a temporary move to Bournemouth this week after Blues defender Nathan Ake was recalled from his own loan spell at Dean Court.
The 36-year-old is potentially in the final months of his career-long association with Chelsea, for whom he has made more than 700 appearances since making his debut more than 18 years ago.
But Chelsea boss Conte is adamant Terry, who is suspended for Saturday’s trip to Premier League champions Leicester, is still too important to be let go while his team are in the midst of the title challenge.
“John is an important player for me, if he plays or he doesn’t play,” Conte told reporters on Friday.
“This squad needs him. He’s a great player, but also a great man and for me it’s fantastic to have a person like him to help me in my first season at Chelsea.
“For this reason, I repeat, John stays with us, is our player, is in my squad. And when I see the situation and I want and he deserves to play, he’ll play.”
As well as keeping Terry in the squad, Conte hopes the return of Ake, who can play in central defence, in midfield or left wing-back, will be like having a new signing.
“We ‘bought’ Ake,” Conte added. “His situation makes me more calm, also in the market, in January.
“When you have a player who can play different roles, it’s good for me.
“The first impressions are a lot of positives. This player has a good personality, he’s mature to stay with us.
“It’s not a gift. I don’t like to gift someone. He deserves to come back to Chelsea.”
Chelsea return to Premier League action on Saturday for the first time since Tottenham ended their 13-game winning run 10 days ago.
Conte’s side are five points clear at the top of the table entering this weekend’s fixtures, while Leicester are 15th, six points clear of the relegation zone.
Asked about Leicester’s struggles, Conte, on Friday voted the Premier League’s manager of the month for December, said: “I’m not surprised because this league is very tough.
“For sure I consider Leicester a really good team, with good players. A good mix. They have a great manager. But it can happen, this, in this league..
“The Leicester game is very important. It’s important for us to restart, to restart to win.”