Chelsea boss Antonio Conte insists Nemanja Matic is going nowhere and believes the Serbia international can become one of the best midfielders in the world.
Matic was a star performer as Chelsea romped to the Premier League title in 2014-15 but struggled last term as a shambolic title defence cost Jose Mourinho his job at Stamford Bridge midway through last season.
Although the 27-year-old was not alone as a key player losing his way for Chelsea, his fall from grace was as pronounced as any and he regularly found himself behind the unheralded Jon Obi Mikel in the pecking order under interim manager Guus Hiddink.
Conte’s move to bring in N’Golo Kante from Leicester City threw Matic’s future into doubt but, amid speculation the manager’s former club Juventus are eyeing a bid for the ex-Benfica man, he offered a ringing endorsement of his qualities
“Matic is a very important player for me, he is very important in my idea of football,” Conte told a news conference ahead of Thursday’s International Champions Cup match against Liverpool in Pasadena.
“He knows this and I’m delighted by his attitude and behaviour and I see in him commitment. I know with work he can become a fantastic midfielder, one of the best in the world. He is not for sale.”
Rather than being rivals to each other, Conte suggested France international Kante and Matic could operate in tandem within an impressive array of midfield options.
“N’Golo is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club bought this player and he is fantastic,” he explained.
“In a great team it is important to see the right attitude in all the players.
“N’Golo is an important player and we bought him for this reason. He played a fantastic season with Leicester.
“He played a good Euro 2016. I can’t wait to see him and work with him and to transfer my idea of football to him.”
Conte added: “Then when you have N’Golo Kante, Cesc [Fabregas], [Nathaniel] Chalobah and so on, it’s not easy to choose [in midfield]. I want to have this problem.”