Ensuring Thibaut Courtois stays at Chelsea is “the most important thing” according to head coach Antonio Conte amid speculation linking Real Madrid with a move for the Belgium international.
The fine form of Courtois at Stamford Bridge, after a similarly successful loan stay with Atletico Madrid came to an end in 2014, is reported to have won him admirers at the Santiago Bernabeu.
But the prospect of his goalkeeper returning to the Spanish capital was not something Conte was willing to entertain as his Premier League-leading team prepare to host Stoke City on Saturday.
“I think it is not important to clarify the situation,” Conte said. “Thiabaut is, for me, one of the best if not the best goalkeeper in the world.
“He’s worked very well, he is a fantastic goalkeeper. He stays with us and this is the most important thing.
“The other situations for me are only speculation.
“He’s playing very well and you can see that he is not only very good with his hands but also with the feet.
“I think he is a complete goalkeeper, he is a modern goalkeeper and for me now he is one of the best in the world.
“I don’t want to tell him he is the best because he is my player, but he is a fantastic goalkeeper. He is at the top.”
Conte did not rule out bolstering his squad in the January transfer window but he will not spend the bounty brought in by Oscar’s lucrative move to Shanghai SIPG simply for the sake of doing so.
The former Italy and Juventus boss also suggested he will initially look to younger players such as Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to fill the void left by the Brazil international, along with running the rule over Kenedy and Charly Musonda following their respective loan returns from Watford and Real Betis.
“For sure, we sold Oscar and we have money to spend but it is important to spend money in the right way. To spend money just to spend money, I don’t like this,” Conte said.
“I prefer to buy players who can adapt to our system and come in to our team. It is not easy in this window to find this type of player. With the club we are working on this aspect.”
He added: “Kenedy and Musonda are back from their loans because they didn’t play a lot. For this reason I think it is important to stay with us in these weeks to evaluate the best situation for them and for the team.
“In January it is not easy. With the club we are talking about this to find if there is the possibility to try to find the best solution for our squad.
“Also we have a lot of young players in our squad and I trust in them – Ruben and Chalo, also we recovered [fit again defender Kurt] Zouma and then Musonda and Kenedy.”
“We are talking of players 19, 20, 21 years. It is important to work with this type of player and try to find the right solution. If it is not possible, it is important to look around and find a new solution.”