Chelsea’s Italian head coach Antonio Conte / AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL /
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has told Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante to forget about individual awards and focus on ensuring the Premier League leaders are crowned champions.
Chelsea stars Hazard and Kante were named this week on the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award, along with Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Everton’s Romelu Lukaku.
Conte acknowledged Belgium playmaker Hazard and France midfielder Kante deserved nominations for their part in Chelsea’s rise to a seven-point lead at the top of the table.
But Conte, speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Manchester United on Sunday, is far more interested in picking up collective silverware by finishing the season as winners of the title race.
“I think it’s great, for them, it’s a great achievement to receive this nomination,” Conte told reporters on Friday.
“I hope for them to be the best player of the year and also I want them to win the league. Awards are important but the most important thing is if you match the two.
“But I don’t like to make a choice between two of my players. It’s not right. They deserve the best because they are having a good season, but I think all my players are having a great season.
“I’m pleased because it’s a fight between two of my players and four other players from other teams. I want to see who is the winner.”
Although the title fight is far from over, Chelsea have already been linked with a host of transfer targets for next season, including Everton striker Lukaku.
The Belgian, who has scored 24 goals this season, has already had one spell with Chelsea before being sold by former Blues boss Jose Mourinho in 2014.
Chelsea legend Didier Drogba recently said Lukaku still has a point to prove at “the house he knows”, but Conte was keen to play down talk of a possible move for the powerful forward.
“I think it’s not the right time to talk about this,” he said.
“I have great respect for Drogba, a legend for Chelsea, but I can’t talk about this.
“It’s not right to talk about players from other teams, we must have respect for players and other clubs.”