Tuesday, October 04, 2022

By Nick Purewal, PA

Graham Potter has insisted he will not get involved with N’Golo Kante’s contract situation at Chelsea.

World Cup winner Kante’s current deal expires next summer, with the 31-year-old’s services in high demand.

New owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali are continuing their overhaul of Chelsea’s senior squad, with the midfield understood to be a focus for January and next summer.

Chelsea Press Conference – Stamford Bridge
Graham Potter, pictured, is gearing up Chelsea to face AC Milan in the Champions League (Zac Goodwin/PA)

But new Blues boss Potter insisted he will leave any contract talks with France star Kante to Chelsea’s owners.

Kante continues to work his way back to full fitness after hamstring trouble, leaving Potter determined to focus on the midfielder’s recovery.

“My focus at the moment is to help rehabilitate N’Golo in a good way so he’s available for us, because when he’s on the pitch he’s a huge asset for us,” said Potter.

“The other stuff is between the club and him. My focus is to help him get fit, get him enjoying his football, because there’s not many players in world football like NG.

“So the quicker he’s back for us the better. So that’s where I’ll leave my focus.”

Kante has been out of action since Chelsea’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Tottenham on August 14.

The former Leicester star is back in training but is unlikely to start Wednesday’s Champions League clash with AC Milan at Stamford Bridge.

And Potter admitted he must shoulder the burden of finding the best way to cope without the hugely influential midfielder in the short term.

“It’s hard to replace someone like NG, he’s a world-class player and any team that loses him will suffer a little bit,” said Potter.

“So it’s up to other players to take the step up and find the solutions. There are a lot of games now and we have limited time on the training pitch.

“But if I look at the options we’ve got, there isn’t a direct replacement so I’ve got to find the right one.”

Edouard Mendy has shaken off a knee injury and will be in the mix to feature against Milan, though Kepa Arrizabalaga could keep his place in goal.

Potter rejected the idea of selecting a number one goalkeeper in the coming weeks, especially given Chelsea’s hectic schedule.

“I think if you look at what we’ve got over the next six weeks, it’s an incredible schedule,” said Potter.

“So I’m in no rush to label anyone one or two or anything like that. I want to help Edou get fit and ready to play, which he’s done really well so far.

“Then we’ve got two goalkeepers, and in an ideal world you want football to decide. We’ve got two we really believe in and that’s a really good situation for us.”

Chelsea are understood to be in pole position to sign Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig.

The France striker has undergone medical tests ahead of a potential move for next summer, the PA news agency understands.

Potter refused to comment on Nkunku, but did admit Chelsea’s new owners are working very hard on the long-term Blues set-up.

“I don’t speak about players that aren’t Chelsea players,” said Potter.

“It was the same at Brighton; you get linked to a lot of players and there’s a lot of names out there, and you can imagine it gets escalated when you’re at Chelsea.

“But I’ll speak about Chelsea players and not comment on anybody else.

“The guys are ambitious that’s for sure, they want to develop the club, they want to develop the team, as we all do.

“I never forget that my job as the head coach is to develop the players that are here, and then to work with the club to align the resources we have to make decisions when transfer windows open.

“But predominantly my job is to help players that are here and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

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