Antonio Conte has confirmed that John Terry is going to stay at Chelsea until the end of the season despite recent reports linking him with a January move to Bournemouth. The recent arrival of Nathan Ake from Eddie Howe's side may restrict the captain's opportunities even further during the second part of the season, but the Italian boss insisted that he still has a role to play "on and off the pitch".
The 36-year-old veteran defender has only made nine appearance for the Blues since the summer arrival of Conte and his contract at Stamford Bridge is set to expire in the summer.
Earlier in the week, it emerged that Bournemouth were reportedly considering to take advantage of the situation by attempting to lure him to Dean Court on loan until the end of the season. Yet Howe has also seen Ake returning to the Blues following an impressive loan spell with the Cherries during the first part of the season and the addition of Terry could help him to fill the gap.
However, Howe ruled out making a move for the Chelsea captain on 13 January and Conte has now also made it clear that Terry is going nowhere, as he still considers him a crucial player in the Blues attempts to win the Premier League and the FA Cup.
"I didn't know about Bournemouth's interest for John. John is an important player for me and if he doesn't play, he is a really important man in the changing room. This squad needs him. His work on the pitch and in the changing room outside is fantastic. This shows he is a great player, but also a great man," Conte said in the press conference ahead of the trip to Leicester City on 14 January.
"For me it is fantastic to have a person like him to help me in my first season in Chelsea. For this reason I repeat, John will stay with us in my squad. When I see a situation for him to start to play he will play, but he is a really important player for me."
Terry will have further competition in defence after Conte had brought Ake back from Bournemouth, having also had Kurt Zouma available following a long period on the sidelines.
Yet, Conte said that he is yet to decide the best position for the 21-year-old versatile defender as he could also play in the wing-back role to cover Marcos Alonso's potential absences.
"In these days I tried him as a central defender. It's important for me to have a bit of time with him to know him better, and to try to find out the best position for him. He can play in different roles and it's very important for us he is able to do that," Conte said while leaving in doubt whether he will play Ake at Leicester.
"I'm very pleased for him (Ake) to stay with us. In this one-year-and-a-half he has improved a lot. This shows that it's important for a young player born in the Academy to go and play on loan, and then, when they are ready, come back and play with us," the manager said. "Ake is a really good example. He is a good player, very young but with a good personality. He can play as a central defender, in the middle or on the left, he could play as a wing-back. It's important now to work with us. He's trained with us only a few days. It's important for him to have a bit of time to go into our idea of football and adapt, and then be under consideration."
"This makes me more calm in the January market. The first impressions are a lot of positives. He has good personality and he's mature. It's not a gift for him. I don't like to give gifts. Somebody must deserve to come back."
Charly Musonda could also follow in the same footsteps after having been recalled from an unsuccessful spell at Real Betis. The Belgium star has been linked with the likes of Roma in recent days, but Conte has suggested that he may have a chance to stay with the Chelsea first-team should he impress him before the end of the transfer window.
"Charly is a good prospect. He has the quality to become a great player. For this reason, it's a good opportunity for him and for me to work in this five months with him and try to improve him," Conte said. "If he shows me this month he deserves to play, he will go into the team. I like this type of player and I want to work with this player. I see this player for the present and for the future."