Friday 23 June 2017

Antonio Conte warns Diego Costa 'money is not everything' as Willian becomes latest China target

Marcos Alonso celebrates with Gary Cahill after scoring Chelsea’s second goal against Leicester. Photo: Reuters / John Sibley
Marcos Alonso celebrates with Gary Cahill after scoring Chelsea’s second goal against Leicester. Photo: Reuters / John Sibley

John Percy

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is taking a fierce stand against player bids from the Chinese Super League as Willian emerged as the latest target.

Leicester City 0 Chelsea 3

With Diego Costa having been dropped for Saturday's match at the King Power Stadium, Abramovich made it clear that he will refuse to sell any of his key players before the end of the season.

Chelsea's Victor Moses (left) and Leicester City's Ben Chillwell battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nigel French/PA Wire
Chelsea's Victor Moses (left) and Leicester City's Ben Chillwell battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nigel French/PA Wire

Costa's representatives are believed to have been in China to discuss an offer worth £30m a year and explore the possibility of a move.

He was omitted from the Leicester game after a row with head coach Antonio Conte and a fitness coach - a confrontation for which his team-mates have urged the striker to apologise.

Oscar has already left Stamford Bridge this month, joining Shanghai SIPG, who signed the Brazilian for £52m and are paying him £400,000 a week.

Willian is now understood to be on the Chinese league's radar, but Chelsea are determined not to lose their most important players to the wealth of the Chinese revolution.

Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek (left) and Leicester City's Christian Fuchs in action. Photo credit: Nigel French/PA Wire
Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek (left) and Leicester City's Christian Fuchs in action. Photo credit: Nigel French/PA Wire

"We are a great club and it's a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason, I don't see (China) as a threat for my players," said Conte.

"The money is not everything. When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased.

"This league is the first in the world because of a lot of positive things.

"For this reason, I don't think these offers from China are a threat."

Leicester City's Christian Fuchs battles with Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas. Photo: Reuters / Darren Staples
Leicester City's Christian Fuchs battles with Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas. Photo: Reuters / Darren Staples

Costa is the Premier League's leading scorer with 14 goals, but his absence was barely noticed as Chelsea sent a chilling message to their title rivals.

Conte's side were irresistible without their star man. Left-back Marcos Alonso stepped up as the unlikely source of goals, with two clinical finishes, while Pedro added a third after a sublime flick to Willian in the build-up.

The formidable, efficient team display enhanced Chelsea's belief that the title is heading back to Stamford Bridge.

As Thibaut Courtois insisted afterwards, the pressure is on the chasing pack as his side prepare for a potentially pivotal trip to Liverpool later this month.

Pressure

The goalkeeper said: "We are seven points clear and the pressure is more on the other teams than us.

Leicester City's Wes Morgan (left) and Chelsea's Michy Batshuayi battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nigel French/PA Wire
Leicester City's Wes Morgan (left) and Chelsea's Michy Batshuayi battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nigel French/PA Wire

"Everything is in our favour so we must try to keep the momentum and just win our games.

"Of course we have enough quality to replace Diego," added Courtois. "Diego is important for us but if he's not there we know we can handle it as well."

It was Leicester's 10th league defeat of the season and they are only five points above the relegation zone.

The Foxes barely laid a glove on Chelsea, with Jamie Vardy, ruthless in the victory over Manchester City last month, given no service.

The sight of Leicester players throwing up their arms in confusion, trying to work out the formation Ranieri wanted, was alarming. He will now focus on signing at least one centre-half before next Sunday's trip to Southampton. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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