Antonio Conte says Thibaut Courtois Chelsea contract 'for the club' to sort
LONDON -- Antonio Conte has said that it is not his place to convince Thibaut Courtois to sign a new contract at Chelsea as the Belgium international prepares to enter the final year of his current deal at Stamford Bridge.
Courtois said prior to Chelsea's 4-0 win over Qarabag on Wednesday that he is happy to postpone talks over a lucrative extension to his contract, which expires in June 2019, until later in the season as he focuses on performing for the Blues on the pitch.
Real Madrid are long-term admirers of Courtois and Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and have publicly courted both as potential upgrades on current No.1 Keylor Navas, while the Chelsea goalkeeper has made no secret of his desire to one day return to Spain.
There have been reports that Courtois rejected an initial contract offer from Chelsea in May, but Conte does not believe the uncertainty surrounding his goalkeeper's future is an issue for him to address publicly.
"I must be honest: I think this question is for the club, not for me," Conte said of Courtois. "I like to also give my opinion about technical decisions [internally] but it is also important for the club to face this issue, this contract [negotiation] with Courtois.
"I can tell you he is one of the best, maybe the best goalkeeper in the world and he is a very important player for Chelsea, but the renewal of the contract is a task for the club."
Asked if the Courtois situation should concern Chelsea in light of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil running down their contracts at Arsenal, Conte replied: "As you know very well, if a big player decides to not sign a new contract it is difficult for the club to face this issue. But at the same time there is space to deal with this type of situation and to solve it.
"In this season, Sanchez and Ozil are finishing their contracts with Arsenal. These situations are not simple but every club has to try and solve them."
Conte also played down the suggestion that he had to convince Courtois to stay at Chelsea when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2016.
"I think that Thibaut didn't need my opinion," he insisted. "He knows very well what are my thoughts about him. I consider him one of the best. For sure he will be the best in the world, maybe he is now the best but for sure in the future [he will be].
"But he knows very well my opinion and my thoughts about him."
Courtois joined Chelsea from Genk for around £8 million in July 2011, but spent the first three seasons of his Blues career on loan at Atletico Madrid, where he won a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey and the 2012 Europa League, as well as reaching the Champions League final in 2014.
In an interview with Marca in September 2016, the 25-year-old said that he "fell in love" with Spain during his time in Madrid and revealed that he still considers himself "half-Spanish."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.