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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

'We are trying to buy players, not sell them!' Conte laughs off claims Hazard could replace Neymar at Barcelona

Chelsea manager spoke to the media ahead of the FA Community Shield, also addressing the ongoing saga surrounding Diego Costa.

Antonio Conte speaks to the media during the press conference for the Community Shield. Jordan Mansfield / Getty Images
Antonio Conte speaks to the media during the press conference for the Community Shield. Jordan Mansfield / Getty Images

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte laughed off suggestions that Eden Hazard could replace Neymar at Barcelona following the Brazilian forward's world record move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar, 25, completed a €222 million (Dh965.7m) move to PSG on Thursday and was presented to the media and fans on Friday.

The Brazilian's departure from Barca has left the Primera Liga giants searching for a replacement, and while Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho is thought to be the top target, Chelsea's Belgian forward Hazard has also been linked with a move to the Camp Nou.

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However Conte, who is preparing the Premier League champions for Sunday's FA Community Shield against Arsenal, insisted Hazard will remain at Stamford Bridge.

"We are trying to buy the players, not to sell them," the Italian said. "Otherwise the number is always less and we are in trouble.

"These are rumours. Eden is very happy to stay with us and to start the new season."

Indeed, Conte reiterated his desire to strengthen his squad before the end of the transfer window on August 31.

Chelsea have so far signed German defender Antonio Rudiger from Roma, Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, Argentine goalkeeper Wily Caballero and Spanish striker Alvaro Morata for a club record fee.

"Now for us, it's very important to try to improve our squad, above all under a numerical aspect. We have a small squad," Conte said.

"And I think only one player is not enough to improve our team. We need more players with, not at top level like Neymar, more players to improve our squad, to improve our quality."

Conte also addressed the ongoing saga regarding striker Diego Costa, who has been told he no longer has a future at the club.

It has been revealed that a lawyer purported to represent Costa threatened Chelsea with legal action over the striker's future, action which prompted a Chelsea spokesman to say: "The premise the lawyer has put forward is just wrong."

Conte revealed earlier in the summer that he, the club, Costa and his agent Jorge Mendes had agreed in January that the striker would leave Chelsea, and the former Italy and Juventus manager has said nothing has changed in that regard.

"For me it's very simple, the situation," he said. "I repeat what I said in the past, maybe 10 days ago. The player, his agent and the club knew very well the future of the player in the summer.

"For sure I don't understand why lawyers are getting involved. I don't understand this. The situation is very clear and is always the same."