Chelsea's Barkley should target England World Cup spot - Conte
NORWICH -- Antonio Conte said that earning a place in the England squad for this summer's World Cup should be Ross Barkley's target as he aims to make a positive impact for Chelsea in the remainder of this season.
Barkley was announced as the first signing of what could be a busy January transfer window for the Blues on Friday, after a £15 million fee was agreed with Everton. He trained alone at Cobham on Saturday as he continues to work towards peak physical condition following a serious hamstring injury.
The 24-year-old's last international appearance came in a friendly defeat by Netherlands in March 2016. But Conte admitted that Barkley working his way back into Gareth Southgate's plans with consistent performances at club level could only be good news for Chelsea.
"We are talking about a player with great talent," Conte said of Barkley. "Before this bad injury he was with the national team. I think we have five months to show he deserves a call with the national team for the World Cup. I hope [he makes it], because it means he will do very well with us.
"First of all we have the necessity to bring him in the best physical condition. I think he can play in midfield, if we play with three midfielders, or No. 10 if we play 3-4-3. Barkley is also a creative player. This signing is a good signing for the club."
Conte will get his first opportunity to assess Barkley's fitness at Cobham on Monday, but Chelsea's head coach has already formed an opinion on the main area of potential improvement in his new signing's game.
"I think he has the quality to score more goals," Conte added. "My [first] priority is to convince the player to work for the team. If you are able to work for the team, the team will then exalt your characteristics. We are talking about a talented player and we are happy to have him in our squad."
Part of that process will include getting Barkley up to speed with the intricacies of Conte's tactical system and instructions, and the Italian hinted that the adaptation could take time.
"It will be very important to know him very well," Conte explained. "For sure before playing [him] we must be sure that he is into our idea of football. Otherwise it's a problem for him and it's a problem for the rest of the team."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.