Antonio Conte: Before the money must be the passion for football

Antonio Conte: Before the money must be the passion for football

Antonio Conte has challenged his Chelsea squad to put "passion" before money as Oscar closes in on a £52m move to China.

Blues manager Conte insists he remains proud of Oscar's attitude, despite lamenting the Brazil forward's impending switch to Shanghai SIPG.

Oscar's January transfer for an expected £400,000-per-week wage should be confirmed shortly, with Conte branding China's spending power a "danger" to global football.

The Stamford Bridge chief revealed Oscar will leave with his blessing, but also accepted football's ever-increasing battle between ambition and money.

"I think the most important thing for us must be the passion. Okay? The passion for football," said Conte.

"If you haven't got that, it's no good. No good.

"I repeat: this concept is very important. Before the money must be the passion, the passion for the sport, for football.

"We started to play when we were children without money, and only for the passion. Then, also, came money but the passion is more important than money, for me.

"Oscar is a really good player. A good player. For me, I was very proud to have him in my squad and have him as my player.

"I'm proud of his attitude, his commitment and his behaviour, which have been fantastic.

"I have great respect for every decision made by a single player.

"If you ask me, 'are you sorry?', then yes, I am sorry. I am sorry because he's leaving as a really good player and a really good man.

"I must be honest about this. But, also, I understand him and his decision."

A clutch of Chinese Super League clubs now boast the financial clout to outmuscle Premier League rivals on the wage front, with Conte admitting English sides must be wary.

The likes of former Chelsea players Demba Ba and Ramires, along with Gervinho and Graziano Pelle, are currently playing in China.

Chelsea club captain John Terry has also been linked with a move to China in the new year, tipped for a reunion with old team-mate Gus Poyet, who now coaches at Shanghai Shenhua.

Former Italy and Juventus coach Conte believes the top Chinese clubs must now be viewed as serious players in the global transfer market.

"The Chinese market is a danger for all teams in the world; not only for Chelsea but all teams in the world," said Conte.

"But I think that we must be concentrated on our work. I think that this league is fantastic and to play in this league is a great opportunity, a great honour.

"You must be very proud to play in this league. Because I think now it's the best league in the world.

"For this reason, I don't worry about this."

Conte insisted every player must control their own future, but admitted it is tricky to negotiate man-management with such astronomical wage sums on offer around the world.

Asked if players should prize trophies ahead of money, Conte said: "I don't know, I can't predict the future of a single player.

"I think that every single player is the owner of his future."

When quizzed on the challenge of managing such rich players, Conte added: "I have said before, when there are incredible situations it's very difficult to manage this.

"It's very difficult. My style is to take the decision for the club, and to understand also some changed situation, or some massive offer.

"Sometimes it's important also to be linked with the club, to take the best decision, to understand sometimes also if sometimes the situation can penalise you.

"But it's important to take always the best decision, together with the club."

Eden Hazard should be fit for Saturday's clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park as Chelsea bid to equal their club-record 11-straight Premier League wins.

Conte has insisted Chelsea's winning run only serves to increase the size of his side's weekly challenge.

"It's more difficult for us to continue this way than for our opponent," he said. "Because our opponents have nothing to lose."

Here's a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Chelsea on fire, Liverpool stuttering, Manchester City in disarray. The Premier League mid-term report

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