Antonio Conte says Chelsea risk losing the best goalkeeper in the world if they do not extend Thibaut Courtois’ contract.
The 25-year-old’s present five-year deal expires in June 2019 and this week Courtois said he would wait until the end of the season to discuss a renewal.
The Belgium goalkeeper, who has been repeatedly linked with Real Madrid, spent three years on loan from Chelsea at Atletico Madrid before succeeding Petr Cech as the Blues’ number one.
Conte deferred to Chelsea’s hierarchy on the topic of Courtois’ contract, but had a warning for the Blues.
“I can say Courtois is one of the best, maybe the best goalkeeper in the world and he is a player very important for Chelsea,” said Conte, whose side play at Liverpool today.
“But the renewal of contract is a task for the club.
“He knows very well my opinion and my thoughts about him.
“I consider him one of the best.
“He will be the best in the world... maybe he is now the best, but for sure, in the future for this goalkeeper (he will be the best).”
Conte referenced the fact Arsenal pair Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are entering the final six months of their contracts.
It is a situation Chelsea usually avoid and will likely wish to do so with Courtois, who signed from Genk in 2011.
“As you know very well if a big player decides to not sign a new contract it is very difficult for the club to face this issue,” Conte added.
“But at the same time there is space to deal with this type of situation and to try to solve the situation.
“In this season, maybe Sanchez and Ozil are finishing their contracts with Arsenal.
“These types of situations are not simple but every club has to try and solve all these situations.”
The Blues won 4-0 against Qarabag to qualify from Champions League Group C on Wednesday night, returning to London following the 2,500-mile flight from Baku, Azerbaijan early on Thursday morning.
Conte has continually bemoaned the fixture scheduling which sees his side go to Anfield following limited recovery and one day’s preparation, 24 hours less than that afforded to Liverpool, who drew at Sevilla on Tuesday.
Chelsea’s return was complicated as the aeroplane landed at the second attempt - the first was aborted due to strong winds at Gatwick - and Conte says he and his players finally got to their beds at 6am.
“It was a problem to land. In these circumstances you feel a bit afraid, a bit scared,” Conte added.
“To get to your house at 6am is not simple. To have only one day to prepare a big game, especially to have only one day to rest, is not right.
“But at the same time we must be focused on the game, a big game against Liverpool. Don’t find excuses.”
Conte appeared fresh-faced after shaving the beard he grew during the international break, having valued the opinions of his daughter Vittoria over those of his wife Elisabetta, who had encouraged him to grow it.
He added: “I wanted to try a new look, but yesterday my daughter killed me.
“She said to me ‘Daddy, your look is older with the beard’.
“My daughter is more important than my wife.”
His side go in search of a fifth straight league win, but trail leaders Manchester City by nine points entering this weekend’s fixtures.
Victor Moses, a key component of Chelsea’s title win last season, is available after a six-week absence with a hamstring injury.
Moses, who spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Liverpool, is expected to be among the substitutes alongside David Luiz and Willian. Andreas Christensen and Alvaro Morata are likely to start.
Conte has adjusted his favoured 3-4-3 formation following some inconsistent displays, fielding an additional midfielder.
He said: “We are trying to find different solutions compared to last season.”
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