Chelsea are yet to open talks over a possible contract extension for club captain John Terry whose current deal expires at the end of the season.
Speculation over Terry’s future overshadowed last season at Chelsea as his contract entered its final months before he signed a one-year extension and British media reported that the 36-year-old is unlikely to be offered a new deal this time.
“John is our captain and I think he is doing a great job when he plays. Now he is not playing but he is helping me a lot in the changing room to send the right message to the players,” manager Antonio Conte told reporters on Tuesday.
“I hope to have him available to play, but it’s also important to have him in this role… John loves this club. I think it is important now to be focused on the moment and not think about the future.”
Terry has not started a Premier League match since September due to injury and is not expected to return until next month. Without him Chelsea have conceded only two goals in a nine-game winning run which has opened a three-point gap at the top of the table.
“It’s a little early in the season for stories like this to come out,” the club’s head of communications Steve Atkins said.
“It’s the kind of discussion that we have with players in the last year of their contract, but much later in the season,” he added.
“That discussion has not taken place between John and the club. It’s something that will be discussed later in the season, not for now.”
Conte rejected reports that midfielder Cesc Fabregas could be sold in January.
“In football, in my experience, it’s very difficult to guarantee something. But, in my opinion, Cesc is an important player for us,” the Italian said ahead of Wednesday’s trip to bottom club Sunderland.
“Cesc is always a good choice for me and, I repeat, he is an important player and he is in the Chelsea squad. This is the reality.” (Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)