Antonio Conte Close to First Chelsea Signing, Willing to Let Two Star Players Leave

Antonio Conte has revealed he is willing to allow some of Chelsea's best players to leave the club as they close in on their first signing of the January transfer window, according to reports.

Speculation has grown over the futures of David Luiz and Michy Batshuayi as the two first-team players appear to have fallen out of favor with Conte in recent weeks.

Luiz, the Brazilian center back, who was resigned by Chelsea in the summer of 2016, fell out with the Italian coach after a 3-0 defeat to Roma in the Champions League in October. He has featured just once since then and is said to be recovering from a knee injury.

Conte clearly doesn't trust Batshuayi, who cost Chelsea £30 million 18 months ago, having left him on the bench when Alvaro Morata has been out with injury or suspended. Conte was asked about the future of the two players ahead of Chelsea's trip to Arsenal on Wednesday (January 3).

"I was a player, I will understand if someone is worried about the World Cup," said Conte, as quoted by The Daily Telegraph. "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]."

But Conte added: "Our squad is not big and for this reason I think it's impossible to send on loan one player or to sell one player if we don't take another player."

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte at Goodison Park, Liverpool, England, December 23. Conte wants Chelsea to bolster his squad in the January transfer window. Alex Livesey/Getty

Chelsea is keen on strengthening while the window is open and is considering bidding for Monaco's Thomas Lemar as well as returning for Everton's Ross Barkley. Conte has also been a long-term admirer of Juventus left-back Alex Sandro, and Chelsea are looking to sign the Brazilian in January.

According to the Daily Mirror, Conte has prioritized the 26-year-old and Chelsea is willing to push through a £50 million deal for Sandro amid interest from Manchester United. But Conte doesn't want Sandro to be the only signing, with the Italian speaking effusively about Alexis Sanchez, who looks bound for Manchester City, and Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal.

"You are talking about two big and strong players, top players for their roles," Conte said. "Vidal is one of the best in the world, but Sanchez is the same as a striker."

Conte has worked with Vidal before, as the Chilean was a key part of his Juventus team that won three consecutive Italian Serie A titles. Asked about the midfielder last week, Conte described him as a "fantastic player" and said he "would always want him to go to war with me."

But the Italian coach, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea in May in his first season in English football, admitted that he would not be involved in any negotiations. "I give my opinion," he said, "but the club decides the players they want to buy, to invest in."