Football: Conte focused on winning trophies, not keeping players happy

Chelsea's Gary Cahill celebrates scoring  a goal with teammates against Stoke City in March 2017.
Chelsea's Gary Cahill celebrates scoring a goal with teammates against Stoke City in March 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has said he is more concerned with winning trophies than with attempting to keep all of his players happy.

Chelsea lead the Premier League with four games left and are in the final of the FA Cup in Conte's first season in charge, but the Italian's preference for stability has resulted in some established players being reduced to impact substitutes.

The likes of Cesc Fabregas and Brazil international Willian have spent a large part of the season on the bench, and when asked on Friday if Fabregas was happy at the club, Conte said the players' happiness was not his primary concern.

"I'd like to underline a concept, that I mustn't keep the players happy. We must win," Conte told a news conference ahead of his team's home game with Middlesbrough on Monday (May 8).

"You can be happy and arrive 10th (in the league) and play every game.

"You speak about 'happy.' I speak about 'to win' and to work very hard. To work very hard is not simple. The player is not always happy to work hard.

"My target is to put a winning mentality in my players' heads, and that doesn't exist to keep players happy... I want players ready to fight and put themselves in the team to win together. If you are happy, or unhappy, I don't care."

Defender David Luiz and defensive midfielder N'Golo Kante are struggling with injuries, but with Chelsea not playing until Monday, Conte has not ruled out either player recovering in time for the game.

Second-placed Tottenham Hotspur face West Ham United later on Friday, and a win for Spurs will cut Chelsea's lead at the top to a single point before they take on Middlesbrough, but Conte said he would not watch the game.

"I have my wife and my daughter arriving and there is the possibility to have a dinner together in London," he added. "It's a good chance to be together."