Antonio Conte tells Thibaut Courtois to create a legacy at Chelsea
Antonio Conte has told Thibaut Courtois to reject overtures from Real Madrid and create history at Chelsea.
The 24-year-old Belgium international spent three years on loan from Chelsea at Atletico Madrid before displacing Petr Cech as the Blues' first-choice goalkeeper.
And Courtois has since been linked with a return to Madrid, with Real, prompting suggestions he could be offered a new contract with Premier League leaders Chelsea.
"Look, Thibaut is a Chelsea player and I want him to stay here. I think he's very happy to stay here," Conte said.
"I see him with this club for many years. I want this, the club wants this. I don't see any problem.
"A goalkeeper like Thibaut deserves to stay at Chelsea for many years and become a type of player to stay and to write the story of this club, to become a legend at this club."
Conte played alongside Gianluigi Buffon and later coached the goalkeeper with Juventus and Italy.
Buffon's £32million transfer from Parma to Juve in 2001 is still the world record fee for a goalkeeper.
Conte added: "I hope Thibaut has the same career as Gigi (Buffon). Yes, he has great potential to continue to do great things, to reach great targets.
"This season he's playing very well, and you can see that he's not only very good with his hands but also with his feet.
"Yes, I think he's a complete goalkeeper. He's a model goalkeeper."
Courtois in September revealed that Real sent him a get-well-soon message when he injured his knee last season.
Conte was unfazed and joked he might one day do the same for one of Real's players.
"I think it's good if a great club like Real Madrid sends a message to players who, at that moment, had a bad injury," Conte added.
"Maybe, in the future, I'd like to do the same (to them). With (Cristiano) Ronaldo."
Chelsea, with Courtois in goal, have conceded just twice and scored 28 times in a 12-game unbeaten run ahead of Saturday's New Year's Eve clash with Stoke.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger labelled Conte's side the "super-favourites" and said the title was Chelsea's to lose on Friday.
But the Italian played down the comments, pointing to the fact that the halfway point of the season follows Saturday's game.
He also says Chelsea must be on their guard to keep their winning sequence going.
"To have 12 wins in a row is a great achievement, but it's not enough to win the league at this point of the season," Conte added.
Michy Batshuayi has been a peripheral figure in the run and is still to make his first Premier League start.
There has been speculation over the future of the £33million signing from Marseille, but Conte has continually discounted the prospect of a loan move.
The Belgium striker is willing to bide his time and Chelsea will be patient with him, Conte says.
"He wants to stay," Conte added.
"He's starting his path in football. He has great talent, he has great potential, and I think this season it's very important to complete him as a footballer.
"It's not easy to play in this league. And it's important to adapt to this league in physical and tactical situations.
"We are working a lot with him and also all the other players to improve this situation.
"In the future for sure he will have his chance to show that he deserves to play."
Sunday's New Year's Day marks the opening of the winter transfer window.
Chelsea have cash to spend after Oscar's move to China for a reported fee of around £52million, but there are possibilities to promote from within, with Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Charly Musonda and Kenedy all options to come into the side.
"In January it's always very difficult to buy," Conte added.
"With the club we are talking about finding the right solution in the right roles to improve the squad.
"But I repeat: it won't be easy. But we are trying. We are trying to do something."