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

More in this Section

How have Leicester got things so right this season?How have Leicester got things so right this season?

Football rumours from the mediaFootball rumours from the media

World Para Athletics Championships: Waiting game pays off for Niamh McCarthy in DubaiWorld Para Athletics Championships: Waiting game pays off for Niamh McCarthy in Dubai

Keena’s heart for Ireland causeKeena’s heart for Ireland cause


Aileen Lee meets Christina Kenny - co-founder and design director of Lamb Design - to talk about her work and inspirations.Christina Kenny of Lamb Design: ‘I love bringing the outside in and inside out’

Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her career and the worth of luxury fastion. By Paul McLachen.From Marc Jacobs to her own label, Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her life in fashion

The recent sentencing of two teenage boys for the murder of Ana Kriégel has once again brought the issue of pornography into public discourse. The details of the case, which are finally coming into public knowledge, illuminate some very worrying trends that are pervasive in the modern adolescent world and as parents and indeed as a society we can no longer languish in complacency.Learning Points: Hardcore porn can pollute our children’s minds

HUSBAND and wife Justin and Jenny Green run Ballyvolane House, in Castlelyons, Co Cork. The mansion and former dairy farm, which was built in 1728, is where Justin grew up. Raised to Scottish parents in Hong Kong, Jenny met fellow hotelier Justin while working in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Having worked in the UK and Bali, they returned to manage Ballyvolane House, as an Irish country house, in 2004.Parents for the Planet: Green family has greener outlook at country house

More From The Irish Examiner