Antonio Conte says Chelsea transfer business 'for the club' to decide
LONDON -- Antonio Conte has revealed that he will not be the one who decides which players Chelsea sign in the January transfer window and beyond.
The Premier League champions' preparations for the winter market were shaken in November by the surprise resignation of technical director Michael Emenalo, who had spent 10 years across the coaching and scouting departments at Stamford Bridge and acted as Conte's primary line of communication to the Chelsea hierarchy on recruitment strategy.
Chelsea insist Emenalo's departure has not caused too much disruption, with Conte now talking directly to club director and chief transfer negotiator Marina Granovskaia, though the process of replacing the Nigerian -- either directly with one individual or with a redistribution of his duties -- is not expected to be completed before the end of the season.
Conte was frustrated with Chelsea's troubled summer transfer dealings and has been vocal in recent weeks about his desire for improved squad depth in January, but the manager admitted that he is not involved in the recruitment of specific players.
"When I [say] that I give my opinion to the club, I try to tell where are the [positions] we can improve, also in the numerical aspect because in some roles we don't have a couple of players or there is a young player that is not ready to play with the first team," Conte explained.
"If the club ask me some names [of players to sign] I try to do this, but then it's the club that decides the name, the investment, which is the best player for the team.
"I think that we must be ready for [everything], to work on the pitch and also to work on the transfer market, but you have to understand what your role is in the club. I'm very focused on the pitch to try to improve my players and the transfer market is for the club. I trust in my club and I'm sure they will take the best decision for the team."
Chelsea will actively explore options to bolster their squad in January, but Conte insisted that he is prepared to see out the season with his existing squad if no suitable reinforcements can be found.
"I'm very happy to work with these players, also because we are working for year and a half now and now there is a fantastic mentality," he added. "I'm enjoying a lot staying with my players during training and in games. We created a really good team, a good group, there is a great link. It's the most important thing, sometimes better than to [buy] a big player."
Asked if his phone will be ringing throughout January with calls related to Chelsea's transfer dealings, a smiling Conte replied: "No -- I changed my number. I don't have this problem."
Conte's attempts to keep his current squad happy are complicated by the fact that many are fighting to ensure their places at next summer's World Cup, and the former Italy manager admitted that he does not like to keep players who have become disillusioned by a lack of opportunities.
"I prefer to have players who are very happy to stay here than to have players that are unhappy, because when you are unhappy you transfer this to the other players, to me, to my staff," Conte said. "I don't like this. If we can avoid this I'd like to avoid this situation.
"I was a player, so I will understand if someone is worried about the World Cup. I will understand, but at the same time it's very important to keep players who are very happy to stay here to work with us, and I think this must be our priority."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.