'Impossible' to sell Chelsea stars in January window - Antonio Conte
LONDON -- Antonio Conte has said it will be "impossible" for Chelsea to sell or loan out any players in the January transfer window unless they are replaced by new signings.
David Luiz's future at Stamford Bridge has been the subject of intense speculation since he was dropped for Chelsea's 1-0 win over Manchester United in November, while more outlandish reports have also linked Eden Hazard with a mid-season move to United or Real Madrid.
Speaking in a news conference to preview Wednesday's clash with Arsenal, Conte said that he has limited influence over Chelsea's transfer strategy but confirmed that no first-team players can be allowed to leave if the club are to fulfil his desire to impove his squad's depth.
"My expectation is that all the players in the squad will stay here and to try to continue to work," Conte said. "Our squad is not big, and for this reason I think it's impossible to send on loan or to sell one player if we don't [buy] another player."
Asked if he expected signings to arrive in January, Conte added: "My expectation can be a lot or not, but the most important thing is my opinion. I try to give my opinion to the club and then the club has to take the best decision for the team.
"I can give my opinion but I'm only a coach. My first task is to work on the pitch with my players to improve my team. If the club decide to ask me something about my team I try to give my opinion."
Chelsea approach the January transfer window in a strong financial position, having announced a £15.3 million profit in their latest financial results. The headline figure was underpinned by a £69.2m profit on player trading in the year ending June 30, 2017.
That number was based in large part on the £60m received for Oscar's move to Shanghai SIPG. Chelsea are due another hefty windfall this summer when the £58m for Diego Costa's move back to Atletico Madrid is paid, but Conte admitted that the question of whether the money is reinvested is not for him to answer.
"I don't know what will happen and this is not my decison," Conte said. "It's the club's decision and it's not my decision. The club has to take the best decision to try to do the best for the team and for the club. I'm ready to face situations because I'm a coach and I have to work very hard with my players on the pitch."
Conte added that he does not envision recalling any of Chelsea's loanees to bolster his squad, despite bringing Nathan Ake back to Stamford Bridge from Bournemouth in January last season.
"I don't think this is realistic because the players that we send on loan are playing," he said. "I don't see a possibility to come back for some players. I remember last January, Kenedy and Musonda [also] came back to improve our squad, but in this transfer window I don't know."
Luiz is back in training at Cobham as he nears a full recovery from the knee inflammation that has kept him out of action him since November, while Charly Musonda is also expected to feature in Chelsea's FA Cup third round tie against Norwich City.
"David improved a lot his physical condition," Conte continued. "Now in the last couple of days he worked with us and I think he could be in contention for the Norwich game. Musonda is in the same condition as David -- he's ready. All my [other] players are available [to face Arsenal]."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.