LONDON (AFP) - Antonio Conte is adamant Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois won't be allowed to leave despite reports of interest from Real Madrid.
Courtois is said to be high on Real's list of potential signings in 2017, but with the transfer window due to reopen on Jan 1, Blues boss Conte was quick to rule out any chance of a deal for the Belgium international.
The 24-year-old spent three years on loan from Chelsea at Atletico Madrid before displacing Petr Cech as Chelsea's first-choice goalkeeper.
Speaking to reporters on Friday (Dec 30), Conte made it clear there would be no return to Madrid for Courtois.
"He stays with us and this is the most important thing. The other situations are only speculation," Conte said.
"Thibaut is, for me, one of the best - if not the best - goalkeepers in the world.
"This season he's playing very well, and you can see that he's not only very good with his hands but also with his feet.
"Yes, I think he's a complete goalkeeper. He's a model goalkeeper."
With Courtois in goal, Premier League leaders Chelsea have conceded just twice and scored 28 times in a 12-game winning run ahead of Saturday's clash with Stoke.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger labelled Conte's side the "super-favourites" and said the title was Chelsea's to lose after they opened up a six-point lead.
But Conte played down the praise and insisted Chelsea must be on their guard to keep their winning sequence going.
"At the start of the season, not one coach, not one person, not one journalist trusted in this team to fight for the title in this league this season," Conte said.
"To have 12 wins in a row is a great achievement, but it's not enough to win the league at this point of the season.
"I'm pleased that the opinion is changing. I'm a bit worried because, when the opinion changes quickly, you must pay attention.
"We have only six points more than the second team (Manchester City), and seven from the third team (Liverpool).
"It's a long way before we arrive at the end of the season." Chelsea have cash to spend in January after Oscar's big-money move to China, but Conte is taking a cautious approach to recruiting new players.
"In January it's always very difficult to buy," Conte added. "With the club we're thinking of the best way to face the rest of the season.
"For sure, we sold Oscar and we have money to spend. But it's important to spend money in the right way.
"To spend only to spend money, I don't like this. I prefer to buy players, adapt our system, people who can come into our team and pass."