Antonio Conte has suggested Chelsea will not recall Nathan Ake from his loan spell at Bournemouth during the January transfer window.
Having joined the Cherries on a season-long loan in August, Ake initially struggled to break into the first-team at Dean Court until he was handed his first Premier League start against Stoke City in mid-November.
The Netherlands Under-21 international has since started and finished the club's last five games. He has also become an unlikely source of goals for Eddie Howe's side, netting three in that period including a superb diving header against Southampton and a last-minute winner against Liverpool.
Howe revealed earlier in December Chelsea do have the option to recall the player when the transfer window reopens should Conte feel he is ready for a first-team role.
But when asked about the Dutchman's future, Conte insisted ensuring he continues playing consistently in the Premier League remains the priority.
"The most important thing is he is playing very well and getting experience with this club [Bournemouth]," Conte told a press conference on Thursday (22 December). "For the future, I prefer to talk with the club. But the most important thing is Ake is getting fantastic experience and he is improving a lot."
Ake is ineligible to play for Bournemouth when his side take on Chelsea on Boxing Day. The 21-year-old has impressed at centre-half in his last five games and while he may not feature in Chelsea's plans this season, his Bournemouth teammate Harry Arter believes a role in Conte's system will be waiting for him when he returns to his parent club.
"Nathan deserves all the plaudits he's getting at the moment," he said, according to Sky Sports. "And I've no doubt that next year he'll go back to Chelsea and play in their side. I personally feel he's more than good enough, especially with the system they're playing now. And it's a credit to him because he's worked really hard, even when he wasn't in the team, and he deserves all the praise he's getting."