Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised the Serbian midfielder and insisted that the club have no plans of selling him this summer.
Many fans expected a massive exodus from Chelsea after their poor season in 2015-16, when they finished 10th in the Premier League. The arrival of former Juventus manager Antonio Conte further fuelled rumours that many of the under-performing players from last season would be sold to make room for the Italian’s new acquisitions.
However, Conte has recently stated that Nemanja Matic, whose future at the club was believed to be under threat, will play an important role for the Chelsea first team in the upcoming season.
“Matic is an important player for me, a very important player,” the Chelsea head coach said, according to Sky Sports. “In my idea of football he is an important player and he knows this.”
Conte also singled out a number of other midfielders as important to his future plans, including 21-year-old Englishman Nathaniel Chalobah.
“N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc [Fabregas], Oscar, [Nathaniel] Chalobah and [John Obi] Mikel, who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”
Matic had found himself out of the first team picture after the departure of Jose Mourinho. Interim manager Guus Hiddink preferred John Obi Mikel over the 27-year-old Serbian, and his future at Stamford Bridge came under intense scrutiny as the transfer window opened.
The central midfielder was initially linked with a move to join his former manager Mourinho at Manchester United. But the main contenders for his signature over the past few weeks have been Serie A Champions Juventus, who were reportedly eyeing him as a possible replacement for Paul Pogba. However, Conte’s recent comments might put that particular rumour to rest.
Another interesting aspect of his comments was his inclusion of academy youngster Nathaniel Chalobah among his midfield options. The 21-year-old Englishman has spent the past six seasons on loan at a variety of different clubs, making over 100 appearances in that period. His most recent loan spell was at Napoli, where he scored one goal in nine appearances.
Conte’s acknowledgement of Chalobah comes soon after he praised another Chelsea youngster in Ruben Loftus-Cheek. This could mean a new dawn for young players at Stamford Bridge, who have thus far remained in the background in the Roman Abramovich era.