LONDON – Antonio Conte has laughed off claims Chelsea botched their bid to sign England midfielder Ross Barkley from Everton on transfer deadline day.
Chelsea were reported to have agreed a £35 million fee for Barkley hours before the window shut on August 31.
But the deal never went through amid claims the Premier League champions were unable to convince Barkley to sign.
Some reports said Barkley had attended a medical with Chelsea, but later decided to reject the Blues, while there were suggestions Chelsea boss Conte had been told not to speak to the player while he debated his future.
Barkley, out of contract at the end of this season, explained he did not undergo a medical at any club on deadline day, and had not wanted to be rushed into a transfer he might later regret.
With Tottenham also interested in Barkley, it was claimed the Everton star – who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury – was willing to wait until the window reopens in January to decide his future.
Asked about the reports at a press conference on Friday, Conte said: “First of all, I don’t like to speak about players on other teams, it shows a lack of respect.
“About this issue I think it’s ridiculous what I read, so I stop. It is ridiculous. With this word, I told you my thoughts about this.”
Conte also missed out on England winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who snubbed Chelsea to join Liverpool from Arsenal.
The Blues fared better with two other deals just before the window closed as they snapped up Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater and Torino defender Davide Zappacosta.
Conte had been unhappy with Chelsea’s failure to land his top targets earlier in the close season, but he was more diplomatic when quizzed on the latest transfer activity.
“I think the club tried to do its best in the transfer market,” Conte said. “Sometimes you are able to buy players, and sometimes not for many reasons, but I think the club tried to do its best.
“Now the window is closed. I’m very happy to work with these players that we have.”
With Chelsea facing Leicester on Saturday at the start of a busy September featuring seven games in 21 days, the new recruits were much needed by Conte.
He is also boosted by the return to fitness of Eden Hazard, who could feature at the King Power Stadium this weekend after missing Chelsea’s first three league games while he recovered from close-season ankle surgery.
Hazard played for Belgium last week, and Conte was happy to see his star playmaker back in action after initially expressing surprise at his international call-up.
“I think now I can count on him for sure. I have to decide when is the right moment and the right minutes for him, but for sure, he’s available,” Conte said.
There remains no resolution to the Diego Costa saga, with the Chelsea striker still exiled while the club try to sell him following his fall-out with Conte.
Conte made it clear Costa was no longer part of his plans, sparking a furious response from the Spaniard.
Despite talk of a move to Fenerbahce, with the Turkish transfer window open until Friday, Conte would only say: “There is no news about him. My focus is on English football, not Turkey.”