Conte laments 'misunderstanding' with England over Drinkwater
LONDON -- Antonio Conte called for greater communication between Chelsea and England after a "misunderstanding" led to Danny Drinkwater being widely criticised for turning down the chance to participate in friendlies against Germany and Brazil.
Drinkwater has played a total of 103 minutes for Chelsea this season due to the lingering effects of a calf injury picked up shortly after he arrived from Leicester City on transfer deadline day, and remains some way short of match fitness.
England boss Gareth Southgate revealed last week that Drinkwater opted not to make himself available for international duty after a host of players pulled out of the squad, prompting accusations that he had shown a lack of respect for the national team.
Conte reiterated that Drinkwater was not in prime condition to play for England and added that he would have been happy to explain the situation to Southgate himself.
"Sometimes there is a very easy way [to solve this] -- before you think to call someone, try to call the [club] coach and to ask, 'Is it OK, can I do this?'" Conte said. "I am telling you this because I was coach for the national team.
"In this way you can avoid a misunderstanding because about Drinkwater it was a misunderstanding. He was injured and also he wasn't really 100 percent fit to go with the national team.
"If someone asks me I can explain and if the coach wants to take the same decision [to call him up] it is OK, but it is important to have more relationship between the coach and the coach of the national team.
"It was the same for us with [Eden] Hazard -- I spoke with Roberto Martinez and then he played. I am ready to help every single national team coach because I had this fantastic experience [with Italy].
"I understand very well the problems and I am more open than before when I was the coach of Juventus, but sometimes there isn't the communication. Before you call the player, you call the coach and ask, 'Is this player good or does he have a problem? Is he tired or not?' Otherwise there are these misunderstandings.
"It's a pity that the player had to pay for this misunderstanding. Drinkwater was very honest and he doesn't deserve to be attacked from the press or the people. In this situation every single player wants to go with the national team and we have to appreciate his behaviour and commitment."
Conte, however, dismissed any suggestion of personal tensions with Southgate.
"There is a good relationship," he insisted. "Last season he came to Cobham when he was U21 coach and as [England] coach he has an assistant [Steve Holland] that has a great friendship with me because he is a really good person, an intelligent person. If they want I am ready to help every national team coach, not only the coach of England."
Conte also faced questions about Chelsea's handling of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham after the on-loan pair made their senior England debuts over the international break, but he insisted he felt pride rather than regret seeing them take the field at Wembley.
"I was very happy for this call in the national team," he added. "Don't forget that these are friendly games and I was a coach in the national team, and this is the right moment to give opportunities to young players. Southgate was the coach of U21s and knows very well the young players.
"I will be very happy for Southgate to call them for the World Cup. It will be a great opportunity for them and means they are really ready to play for a great team."
One negative for Chelsea from the international break was the early return of Michy Batshuayi from Belgium duty. The 24-year-old aggravated an ankle injury and Conte admitted that he does not know when his back-up striker will be fit to play again.
"He went with the national team and then came back with this problem," Conte said of Batshuayi. "Two or three days before the Manchester United game he took a knock in his ankle.
"He was available for the game but he felt pain in his ankle, and then he was not available for the national team and now us. We have to wait and go day by day to understand very well [why] he has this type of problem in his ankle.
"It is better to speak with the doctor about this situation. It's an odd situation. It was an old injury and now he is feeling the pain again."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.