Football: Antonio Conte's silence led to end of Ross Barkley deal

England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain driving at Slovakia's defence during their World Cup qualifier on Monday. He chose to move to Liverpool instead of Chelsea, over Antonio Conte's plans to play him at wing-back.
England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain driving at Slovakia's defence during their World Cup qualifier on Monday. He chose to move to Liverpool instead of Chelsea, over Antonio Conte's plans to play him at wing-back.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea's decision to keep him away after Oxlade-Chamberlain rejection backfires

LONDON • Antonio Conte's failure to speak to Ross Barkley while the midfielder contemplated a move to Chelsea on deadline day last week was the result of direct instructions from the English champions.

According to The Times, Chelsea decided to keep the manager away from transfer negotiations after his unsuccessful talks with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the same week, which ended with the England midfielder opting to join Liverpool.

Chelsea's tactics backfired, however, as Barkley chose to return to Everton to continue his rehabilitation from a hamstring tear and is instead expected to seek a transfer in January.

Contrary to some reports, the 23-year-old did not get anywhere near Stamford Bridge or Chelsea's training ground in Cobham. He is believed to have changed his mind about the move en route from Liverpool to London, a decision at least partially influenced by his failure to speak to Conte.

Barkley had asked to speak to Conte to seek clarification about his plans for him after Everton accepted a £35 million (S$61 million) bid from the Blues last Thursday, but a call never materialised.

The Italian's relations with the Chelsea board have been tense throughout a difficult summer in which there has been considerable disagreement over transfer business. It is believed he did not have an active role in speaking to targets when the deadline neared last week.

Conte had told Oxlade-Chamberlain that he would be competing with Victor Moses for the right wing-back spot if he moved to Stamford Bridge, which was instrumental in the player deciding to join Liverpool, where Jurgen Klopp has promised him the chance to play in central midfield.

However, Chelsea have been careful not to blame Conte for missing out on the player as they seek to improve relations now that the window has closed.

Conte did not speak to Danny Drinkwater on deadline day either before his late £35 million move from Leicester City. Chelsea's transfer business was conducted by Michael Emenalo, the technical director, and Marina Granovskaia, another director.

Chelsea intend to make another attempt to sign Barkley during the January transfer window and are hopeful of being successful at the second attempt, but will face competition from Tottenham Hotspur.

The club's stated position is that they respect Barkley's reasons for wanting some more time to consider his future despite the oversight of failing to put him directly in touch with their manager.

Meanwhile, Eden Hazard urged Diego Costa to end his stand-off with Chelsea on the day that the striker was left out of their Champions League squad.

Chelsea are hoping to maximise Costa's value in the January market by ensuring that he is not Cup-tied, though Atletico Madrid, the striker's preferred destination, are also in the same group.

Costa was named in Chelsea's squad for the Premier League on Friday and has been told to return to training from his home in Brazil despite being told by Conte in June that he was no longer in his plans.

"Diego and I have been playing together for three years, we have won everything together except for the Champions League," said Hazard, who continued his recovery from a broken ankle by playing in both of Belgium's World Cup qualifiers in the past week.

"It's a pleasure to play with him, he's a top player and a top person. I would like to see him come back, but I don't make the decisions. I hope he can find a solution so that we can see him back on the pitch soon."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Conte silence led to end of Barkley deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe