Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has insisted Nemanja Matic will not be sold this summer while also suggesting Blues youngster Nathaniel Chalobah will finally be given a first-team chance.
The arrival of N'Golo Kante at Stamford Bridge has sparked suggestions Matic, 27, could be moved on this summer, having been linked with a reunion with former manager Jose Mourinho at Manchester United and Conte's former club Juventus.
While the Serbia international endured a troubled second season at Stamford Bridge, Sky Italy has suggested the new Chelsea boss is keen to hold onto the midfielder.
Conte now says he expects the former Benfica enforcer to be a very "important" player for his side.
"Matic is an important player for me, a very important player," the Chelsea head coach said in a Sky Sports report. "In my idea of football he is an important player and he knows this."
Conte also seemed to suggest 21-year-old Chalobah will be one of the players challenging Matic for a first-team role.
The Blues academy product spent last season on loan in Serie A with Napoli, with his previous stints away from his parent club taking him to Watford, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley and Reading.
Despite once being touted as one of the club's brightest prospects, he is still to make his first-team debut. But when discussing Matic's role next season, Conte added the England Under-21 international's name to the list of those he will be contending with.
"N'Golo, Nemanja, Cesc [Fabregas], Oscar, [Nathaniel] Chalobah and [John Obi] Mikel, who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem."
Chelsea take on Premier League rivals Liverpool in a pre-season friendly in California on Thursday (July 28). The club then take on Real Madrid in Michigan and AC Milan in Minneapolis before returning to Europe to take on Werder Bremen in Germany.