Chelsea boss Antonio Conte insists he has no regrets on missing out on Romelu Lukaku in the close-season, thanks in part to the form of “complete player” Diego Costa.
Conte attempted to bring Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge in the most recent transfer window, two years after Chelsea sold him to Everton on a permanent basis, but were unable to agree a fee with the Merseyside club.
The Belgium international returns to London on Saturday having scored 10 goals in 12 appearances for club and country this season, continuing to forge a reputation as one of the most feared centre forwards in the Premier League.
Conte remains a fan of Lukaku but says Costa’s displays – the striker has 11 goals in 15 games for Spain and Chelsea in 2016-17 – means he has not been missed.
Asked if he regretted not signing the 23-year-old, he told a news conference: “No, absolutely not.
“We have Diego who is playing fantastic football, not only scoring the goals but working a lot and very well for the team.
“I think that I’m seeing a complete player in Diego. It’s fantastic for me, for the team, to have him in the team.
“When we have our strikers, and Eden [Hazard] and Pedro and Willian and Oscar… all working so well for the team, it’s fantastic.
“I have nothing to regret. Lukaku is a very good player, young and improving a lot, but it’s right to talk about my players.
“I’m very satisfied with my players. I hope Diego continues in this way because his commitment is incredible.”
Lukaku was sent out on loan to West Brom and Everton before opting to move to Goodison Park for £28million in July 2014.
Chelsea have continued to use the loan system as a way of developing players – they have 37 players out on a temporary basis at the moment – although the method of stockpiling young talent has come in for criticism from FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
The Swiss did not name Chelsea but said the practice, which is also employed by many other clubs across Europe, needs closer examination.
Infantino said: “I believe it is not right but it is permitted.
“It doesn’t feel right, for a club to just hoard the best young players and then to park them left and right, it’s not good for the development of the player, it’s not good for the club itself.”
Conte was asked about Infantino’s view on Friday but, before he was able to give an answer, Chelsea head of media Steve Atkins interjected to invite the head of the world game to the club to discuss the matter properly.
Atkins said: “If his comments are directed our way, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how our loan strategy works because it has player development at its core.
“We’d welcome him paying us a visit so we can show how our system works.”