Antonio Conte has told Thibaut Courtois to reject overtures from Real Madrid and create history at Chelsea after comparing him to one of the world’s greatest-ever goalkeepers.
The 24-year-old Belgium international spent three years on loan from Chelsea at Atletico Madrid before displacing Petr Cech as the Blues’ first-choice goalkeeper.
And Courtois has since been linked with a return to Madrid, with Real, prompting suggestions he could be offered a new contract with Premier League leaders Chelsea.
“Look, Thibaut is a Chelsea player and I want him to stay here. I think he’s very happy to stay here,” Conte said.
“I see him with this club for many years. I want this, the club wants this. I don’t see any problem.
“A goalkeeper like Thibaut deserves to stay at Chelsea for many years and become a type of player to stay and to write the story of this club, to become a legend at this club.”
Conte played alongside Gianluigi Buffon and later coached the goalkeeper with Juventus and Italy.
Buffon’s £32million transfer from Parma to Juve in 2001 is still the world record fee for a goalkeeper.
Conte added: “I hope Thibaut has the same career as Gigi (Buffon). Yes, he has great potential to continue to do great things, to reach great targets.
“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.”
Courtois in September revealed that Real sent him a get-well-soon message when he injured his knee last season.
Conte was unfazed and joked he might one day do the same for one of Real’s players.
“I think it’s good if a great club like Real Madrid sends a message to players who, at that moment, had a bad injury,” Conte added.
“Maybe, in the future, I’d like to do the same (to them). With (Cristiano) Ronaldo.”
Chelsea, with Courtois in goal, have conceded just twice and scored 28 times in a 12-game unbeaten run ahead of Saturday’s New Year’s Eve clash with Stoke.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger labelled Conte’s side the “super-favourites” and said the title was Chelsea’s to lose on Friday.
But the Italian played down the comments, pointing to the fact that the halfway point of the season follows Saturday’s game.
He also says Chelsea must be on their guard to keep their winning sequence going.
“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,” Conte added.