Chelsea insist John Terry has not held talks over leaving Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, with Antonio Conte espousing his enduring importance to the Blues.
Captain Terry has featured in just five of Chelsea’s 15 Premier League games this term, only one of which has come since Conte switched to a three-man defence and embarked on a nine-match winning run.
The former England captain was the subject of reports on Tuesday that he had been told he would not be offered fresh terms for next season, having only committed to the current campaign in May – after revealing that he had been told similar in January this year.
However, a Chelsea spokesman said: “It’s the kind of discussion we have with players much later in the season.
“That discussion has not taken place between John and the club, it will take place later in the season.”
And Conte was quick to laud Terry’s continued impact on the first team from behind the scenes.
“John is our captain and I think he’s doing a good job,” said the Italian ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League match with rock-bottom Sunderland.
“He’s not playing and he’s helping me a lot in the changing room, to send a right message to the players.
“He loves this club and I think it’s important now to be focused, I don’t think about the future.
“I’m pleased to know the man, not only the player. I think he’s a really important player for us, if he plays or if he doesn’t play. He’s our captain and he remains our captain. It’s important for me to send the right message, the right spirit in the changing room.
“He comes with us for every game, home and away. It’s very positive. But it’s better to be focused on the present. I think John is able to do different roles in football but now it’s important to be focused, to play.”
Conte failed to guarantee the long-term Stamford Bridge future of Cesc Fabregas.
The Spain midfielder has also struggled for regular games in Conte’s 3-4-3 and was taken out of the starting XI for Sunday’s 1-0 win over West Brom, despite an impressive display against Manchester City the previous week, due to Nemanja Matic’s return from injury.
“In my experience it’s very difficult to guarantee something,” he explained. “But in my opinion, Cesc is an important player for us and he played a key match against Manchester City.
“He came on very well in the last game and I still have to decide the starting XI, but Cesc is always a good choice for me. I repeat: he’s an important player and he’s in the squad.”