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2018/2019 Season

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Antonio Conte not concerned about Oxlade-Chamberlain, Barkley failures

Antonio Conte brushed off Chelsea's failure to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ross Barkley in the final days of the summer transfer window, and insisted that it is not his job to convince transfer targets to come to Stamford Bridge.

Oxlade-Chamberlain chose a move to Liverpool over Chelsea last week, after becoming convinced that Conte would deploy him as a wing-back rather than in his desired central midfield role. Barkley, meanwhile, had a dramatic change of heart in the final hours of deadline day after the Premier League champions had succeeded in agreeing a £35 million fee with Everton.

Sources have told ESPN FC that Chelsea don't feel rejected by Barkley and have not abandoned their interest in him, though Tottenham are also expected to make a fresh approach for the 24-year-old in January.

Conte described the claim that Chelsea blocked him from speaking to Barkley out of fear that he might scupper the deal as "ridiculous" on Friday, and the Italian reiterated that as head coach, he considers it the responsibility of those further up the club's hierarchy to recruit potential signings.

"I'm a coach," he insisted. "I like to work on the pitch, I like to improve my team. I like to work with my players to improve my team. Then, for sure, the club asks me my opinion on players who can improve our team. But then there is the club, and they go into the transfer market to try and do their best. My work finishes on the pitch."

Conte had limited experience of the transfer market as a player, spending his entire 19-year professional career at just two clubs.

"I don't know if I was lucky or unlucky, but I only lived one transfer," he added. "From Lecce to Juventus. That was the past. But I remember, maybe, Berti [Giampiero Boniperti, Juventus director] the chairman called me. [Giovanni] Trappatoni didn't call me. The chairman spoke with me and also with my mother.

Chelsea's Antonio Conte brushed off the club's failure to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ross Barkley.

"I was only 21 years old. To change totally your life, to go into another city, alone because my family stayed in Lecce... I think it was a great idea for the chairman to call my mother."

But the Italian insisted that he has never considered it essential for potential signings to talk to their new coach before a deal is finalised, adding that he has signed players without speaking to them previously in his coaching career.

"Sometimes it's important, other times it's not," he added. "I don't want to speak about my English experience. But when you stay at Juventus and every single player wants to come, they arrive whether they speak or not to the head coach. If a player has great desire to play for a great club, he signs.

"When I was at Juventus, players signed for Juventus. Not for the manager."

Asked if he was concerned that two English players had turned down the chance to join the reigning Premier League champions, Conte replied: "Don't forget that one English player signed in [Danny] Drinkwater. If I don't make a mistake, he's an English player, so we're happy with that. We are happy with him.

"But I repeat, now it's not important to look in the past because the past is the past. We have to be focused on the present and the present is this. We are happy. I'm happy to work with this group of players and, at the end of the transfer market, two new players arrived in Zappacosta and Drinkwater.

"Now it's time to work together, to work with these new players, to adapt them quickly in our style of football."

Another piece of unfinished Chelsea transfer business is the acrimonious Diego Costa saga. The 28-year-old remains in exile in his home town of Lagarto in Brazil despite reports last week claiming that he had landed in London, and the Spanish transfer deadline has passed without an agreement over his desired return to Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea included Costa in their Premier League squad list to offer him a pathway back to the first team, but omitted him from their Champions League selection to ensure he will not be cup-tied ahead of any potential move to Atletico when the window re-opens in January.

Last month, the Premier League leaders reiterated that they expect Costa to fulfil the terms of his contract by returning to England, coming back to training at Cobham, getting himself match fit and making himself available for selection, though it is highly unlikely that Conte will pick him again.

Chelsea and Conte have adopted a policy of not commenting on Costa's situation in recent weeks as the dispute is now considered a legal matter.

Costa has kept a lower profile since giving several explosive interviews criticising Chelsea and Conte earlier this summer, and has deleted his Instagram account.

Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.


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