Antonio Conte has warned Chelsea about Fernando Llorente's threat when Swansea visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday (25 February). The Italian boss however failed to deny that the west London club tried to sign his former Juventus striker during the recent January transfer window.
Llorente, 31, only joined Swansea during the summer transfer window but had been linked with a January move to the Blues following an impressive start to life in the Premier League.
Conte signed the former Athletic Club player for Juventus and earlier in December Spanish publication AS reported that he wanted to reunite with the Spaniard at Chelsea and deploy him as backup for Diego Costa.
Those reports intensified after Costa was left out of the 3-0 victory over Leicester City amid Tianjin Quanjian's confirmed interest in luring the Chelsea top scorer to the Chinese Super League.
However, the move never materialised with Llorente suggesting he could not leave Swansea midseason when his side was battling relegation.
Eearlier this month Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins confirmed that the Wales side did reject substantial January offers for Llorente (alongside Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Federico Fernandez) as they considered the trio key to escaping the drop.
Conte continues to be coy about the dealings, only confirming his admiration for the player who has already scored eight Premier League goals this season, including a brace in an impressive 3-2 victory over Liverpool and one in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City.
"He's a really good player. I have great admiration for him, for the player and also for the man. It's a pleasure for me to see him tomorrow. I wish for him the best, but after this game," Conte said in the press conference ahead of the game.
But when asked whether it was true Chelsea tried to sign him during the recent January window, Conte laughed and replied: "This is the past. I think it's not right to talk about the past. I have great admiration for him because he is a really good player."
Conte added that Paul Clement was doing a great job since taking over at Swansea and warned Chelsea should not take anything for granted even though the Wales side occupy 15th place in the Premier League table, four points above the relegation zone and are 36 points behind the Blues.
"He has had a great impact on the team. Also, with the transfer window, they reinforced the team, and we must pay great attention. If you watch their games against Liverpool, against Man City, you understand the difficulty of the game. I am sure my players understand this. They have worked very well to face them in the right way," Conte said as Swansea face Chelsea on the back of three wins in their last four Premier League games. He added: "They are very compact defensively, very dangerous in offensive situations, in set pieces. It will be a really tough game.
"You work to try to limit the characteristic of your opponent. Sometimes we are able, sometimes the opponent is good enough to score. For sure I try to give a lot of information to my players, to work together with them, to ask them the right way to face this type of player. We know the characteristics of Llorente, Sigurdsson, Fer, the whole team of Swansea, and we must pay great attention."