Conte: No age barrier
news Sun 27 Aug 2017
After Andreas Christensen's impressive start to the campaign, Antonio Conte has reiterated he is happy to call upon young players provided they are ready for the Chelsea first team.
The 21-year-old, who has been capped 12 times by Denmark, was called upon in the early stages of our Premier League opener against Burnley and followed up with an excellent performance in our 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday.
Fellow Academy graduates Charly Musonda and Jeremie Boga have also appeared this season, and Kyle Scott and Fikayo Tomori have been named on the bench. Conte believes age is no barrier if a player is ready to make the step up to the highest level.
'Christensen, after two seasons on loan developing himself in Germany, now he is with us, but he has to fight with David Luiz, with Cahill, with Azpi, with Rudiger to play, but if there is the possibility for him to play I will play him,' said the head coach.
'He played the last game, and against Burnley he played after 14 minutes. I’m the first to be ready to do this but it’s very important the young player is ready to play. Otherwise, you damage the player, and also the club and the team.
'If there is a young player that deserves to play regularly, and gives me a good feeling. Why not? I put Paul Pogba in [at Juventus] when he was only 18 years old.
'You must have this type of player ready to play regularly for Chelsea, a great team, otherwise it’s very difficult to make this decision.
'You must decide if you want to fight for the title or develop your young players, two different ways. If the young player is ready to play regularly it’s possible to do both. Why not? Show me a young player ready to play regularly with Chelsea and I am ready to do this.
'Don’t forget my first game in Serie A, I was only 16 years old. I am the first person who is open to play young players because another coach did this with me.'
Today we face Everton who drew 1-1 with Manchester City on Monday evening in their previous Premier League match. The Toffees' goalscorer in that game was Wayne Rooney, who is back at the club where he announced himself to English football with a spectacular strike against Arsenal in 2002 when he was a 16-year-old.
'Rooney showed his potential and he kept this high level and he improved this level,' said Conte. 'We are talking about an icon of football in general, but it’s not easy to have many Rooneys. A young player must be ready to play with a great team and play regularly.
'Usually in this type of football there is a path for the young player. It’s very difficult to see players who are 16, 17, 18 years old playing regularly. They have to develop and come back to play regularly with a great team.
'This is the right way. I repeat: I like to work with young players. Last season we won the league with players from the Academy and 14 or 15 senior players.'