China cash no worry for Antonio Conte

Leicester 0 Chelsea 3: As Chelsea maintain their grip at the top of the Premier League it appears as though even the millions of Chinese football cannot stop them marching towards the title.

China cash no worry for Antonio Conte

Clubs from the Chinese Super League are embarking on a spending spree dwarfing that of Roman Abramovich when he completed his takeover at Stamford Bridge in 2003, and even Manchester City’s more recent splurge under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour.

Carlos Tevez’s move to Shanghai Shenhua typifies the level of financial backing with the striker’s transfer to the Far East banking him a reported salary of £615,000-a-week. Chelsea have found themselves raided too, with Brazilian playmaker Oscar swapping west London for the riches of Shanghai SIPG

Diego Costa is the latest player reportedly in the sights of clubs from China and he was omitted from Chelsea’s match day squad for this 3-0 win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

Antonio Conte explained after the win the striker had been left out after complaining of a back injury he picked up during the week, but reports in the media on Friday claimed the player had fallen out with his manager and one of the club’s fitness coaches. The reported bust-up came in the wake of an alleged £30m-a-year offer for Costa from Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League, in what is yet another example of the riches on offer to players if they head for the Far East. However, even after losing Oscar to Shanghai SIPG for £60m, Conte is not worried by the threat of China’s millions because, in his opinion, the Premier League is the best league in the world.

“I have to see the past in my squad. Oscar played with us and then he got a great offer from China and he went,” said Conte. “But I don’t see a threat for my players because I think we are a great club and it is a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason, I don’t see a threat for my players. I understand the money, but it’s not all [about that]. When you play for a great team, like Chelsea, you must be pleased.

“This league is really competitive. I think every player wants to come to play in this league. I am sure this league is the first in the world for a lot of positive things. For this reason, these offers from China I don’t think are a threat for our league.”

And, when asked if the lure of the Premier League and everything it had to offer showed money isn’t everything, Conte simply replied: “Yeah.” While off the pitch talk of transfers and offers from Chinese clubs risk unsettling events at Stamford Bridge, on the pitch it is at least business as usual for Chelsea. Here at the King Power, even without Costa, the league leaders produced yet another performance which only strengths their title credentials.

They were dominant against a Leicester side who are still struggling to recreate the heights of last season and, when they took the lead through Marcos Alonso after six minutes, there was no looking back. The left-back completed an unlikely double shortly after half-time, before Pedro secured the victory with the goal of the game 20 minutes before the end. The Spaniard fed Willian with a neat flick, before deftly heading home the Brazilian’s return cross after it had deflected off Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Suddenly the fact Chelsea lost their 13-game winning run in the Premier League to Tottenham at the start of the month seems a distant memory.

“It was a good performance, a good reaction, because when you win 13 games in a row and then arrives the moment you touch defeat, to restart is not easy,” said Conte. “I know this from when I was a footballer and understand this. The psychological aspect is very important.

“But I think we restarted very well in the FA Cup and today in the league to win against a very tough team with really good players and a great manager. To win here is not easy, I am very pleased.”

For Leicester, the loss was yet another painful reminder of how their reign as Premier League champions is slowly coming to an end — even if manager Claudio Ranieri could take some positives in defeat.

“I am pleased with all the players,” said Ranieri. “Of course we conceded three goals but if you analyse, they were stupid goals. Just a little more concentration and they didn’t score.

LEICESTER CITY (3-5-2):

Schmeichel 4; Morgan 5, Huth 4 (60 Okazaki 5), Fuchs 5; Albrighton 4 (77 Simpson 5), Drinkwater 5, Ndidi 6, Mendy 5, Chilwell 6; Vardy 5, Musa 5 (71 Gray 6).

CHELSEA (3-4-3):

Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 7, Luiz 6, Cahill 7; Moses 7, Kante 7, Matic 6, Alonso 9; Willian 7 (84 Batshuayi 5), Hazard 8 (79 Fabregas 6), Pedro 8 (84 Loftus-Cheek 5).

Referee:

Andre Marriner.

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