Antonio Conte Says Unhappy Players Can Leave Chelsea Amid David Luiz Rumours

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2018

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte (L) shakes hands with Chelsea's Brazilian defender David Luiz on the pitch after the English FA Cup quarter final football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on March 13, 2017.
Chelsea won the game 1-0. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has insisted players unhappy with their lack of football can leave the Blues in January amid rumours defender David Luiz may be on his way out of the club. 

The Italian was asked about members of his squad on the fringes of the first team and the potential impact not playing regularly may have on their chances of featuring in the FIFA World Cup in Russia next summer, per Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph:

"I was a player, I will understand if someone is worried about the World Cup. 

"I understand it's very important to keep players very happy to stay here to work with us and I think this must be our priority. To keep the players happy to stay with us, to continue to work with us. At the same time, I was a player and I will understand if someone is thinking in this way (that they need to play more)."

Conte clarified that any potential departure would not be possible without signing a replacement as his "squad is not big."

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Stoke City at Stamford Bridge in London on December 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ian KINGTON / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE
IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

According to Law, while Luiz has been injured recently, he has fallen behind youngster Andreas Christensen in the pecking order, with the latter turning in a string of impressive performances for the Blues.

As we can see here courtesy of BBC Match of the Day, the 21-year-old Denmark international has not been daunted by his integration into Premier League football:

Per Law, striker Michy Batshuayi is in a similar position to Luiz, with Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard preferred to lead the line over the Belgium international.

"Conte would prefer not to risk any disquiet behind the scenes if Luiz, Batshuayi, or any other Chelsea player, decides they want to leave Stamford Bridge this month," Law wrote.

In a separate report from Law earlier in the season, it was suggested Luiz and Conte fell out after the defender was unhappy at being substituted in the UEFA Champions League defeat to AS Roma. The Brazilian was then dropped for the 1-0 win over Manchester United on November 5.

Luiz is said to have fallen down the pecking order at Chelsea.
Luiz is said to have fallen down the pecking order at Chelsea.Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

His recent absence from the XI has triggered speculation about a move, including links with London rivals Arsenal. However, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger denied there is any interest in the player, per James Olley of the Evening Standard:

Luiz returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2016 for a second spell, and while some eyebrows were raised at the deal, he was exceptional in the team's title-winning campaign last season.

At the heart of the Chelsea back three, he was authoritative, composed and blossomed into a leader. The 30-year-old also showcased a consistency that had previously eluded him during his first spell with the Blues and at Paris Saint-Germain.

Regardless of Christensen's exceptional development, players of Luiz's quality and experience are tough to replace. However, Conte has shown throughout his Blues tenure he can be ruthless dealing with unsettled senior figures, as the sale of Diego Costa proved in the summer.