Antonio Conte hopes Chelsea’s supply line to the Chinese Super League has made its final delivery after Diego Costa was rumoured to be a target for the cash-rich competition.
Long-serving Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel completed a switch to Tianjin Teda on Friday, following Oscar’s departure to Shanghai SIPG.
Mikel failed to make a single competitive appearance under Conte, while Oscar made his final Premier League start in September.
The prospect of top scorer Costa leaving – he is rumoured to be the subject of £80million interest from Tianjin Quanjian – would be an entirely different proposition and not one Conte was willing to consider as he addressed a media conference to preview Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie with Peterborough United.
“I hope that this offer from China finish with Mikel and Oscar,” he said.
“I think that it is important now to remain with this squad. Now we are fighting this season.
“We start this season in the right way and it is important to keep the same players.”
Costa’s habitual involvement in on-field flashpoints has taken a backseat this season, with the 28-year-old’s goalscoring prowess to the fore.
The Spain international has struck 14 times in 19 Premier League appearances and opted to steer clear of commenting at length on English referees when interviewed by Onda Cero this week, stating he would “get a four of five-game ban if I did”.
“I think he’s right not to comment on the referee,” said Conte, whose side saw their 13-game Premier League winning streak come to an end at Tottenham on Wednesday.
“It’s difficult to referee and make the best decision.”
Conte reported Chelsea’s response to their 2-0 reverse at White Hart Lane has been encouraging on the training ground, while he also reserved praise for model-professional Mikel.
“It’s important to say thanks to Obi for this period he worked with me. He showed always a great attitude,” the former Juventus boss added.
“I wish him and his family all the best. He played many years with this club and he was a really important player.
“I think there are moments when you want to change, to find a new experience. For this reason I wish him the best.”
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