Antonio Conte was keen to avoid showing Arsenal disrespect by discussing Alexis Sanchez but labelled the Chile star a “top player”.
Sanchez has scored 22 times for Arsenal this season but is yet to commit to a contract extension beyond 2018 and has regularly cut a frustrated figure on the field during the Gunners’ recent slide away from title contention.
While away on international duty, Sanchez was quoted in Publimetro as saying he would, “like to stay in the city [London] but with a team that is winning things, that has a winning mentality,” – remarks that stoked speculation linking Chelsea with a move for the 28-year-old former Barcelona star.
Speaking ahead of the Premier League leaders’ match with Crystal Palace on Saturday, Blues boss Conte was unwilling to make such a connection but voiced admiration for Sanchez.
“I think it’s very disrespectful of players from other teams [to talk about this], but for sure, he’s a top player. I can say this,” Conte said.
“But I don’t like to talk about players from other teams because it’s disrespectful for the players of other teams, other clubs and my own players.
“For us the most important thing is for us to try and finish this league and try to win. Then, once this season is finished, with the club together we will talk about the right way to try and improve our team and our squad.
“That will be very important, but I don’t see any problems about this. This club has great ambitions. It was so in the past, and it will be so in the future. I’m very happy to be coach of this club.”
Chelsea are 10 points clear of Tottenham at the Premier League summit, with Arsenal 19 points behind them in sixth.
Arsene Wenger’s side face a battle to secure a return to the Champions League next season and welcome Manchester City to Emirates Stadium on Sunday.