John Obi Mikel

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Conte urges players “money is not everything” amid Costa rumors


While new reports are suggesting that China will have to curb its massive spending, Antonio Conte has urged his players that they don’t have to be tempted by the Chinese Super League.

[ MORE: United, Liverpool finish level after late Ibrahimovic equalizer ]

Chelsea currently sits atop the Premier League — seven points clear of Tottenham and Liverpool — but the club has recently been at the center of controversy as star striker Diego Costa has been linked with a move away from the club.

[ MORE: CSL set to limit number of foreign players per team ]

Costa missed his side’s 3-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday after several outlets reported a rift between the Spaniard and Conte.

The Chelsea manager told reporters following the match that Costa wasn’t available due to a back injury he suffered in training, but there has been continued speculation that the 28-year-old could head to China.

Conte has made it clear to his squad though that the quality of competition in England supersedes the money offered abroad.

“The money is not everything,” Conte told reporters. “When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased.

“I think we are a great club and it is a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason I don’t see [China] as a threat for my players.

The Blues have lost a number of high-profile players over recent seasons to the high spending of Chinese football, including Brazilian duo Oscar and Ramires, as well as John Obi Mikel.

Oscar departed Chelsea this month to join Shanghai SIPG for a reported $72 million.

“I have to look at the past,” Conte said. “Oscar played with us, had a good offer from China and he went.

“But this league is really competitive and every player wants to come and play in this league.

“This league is the first in the world because of a lot of positive things, so I don’t think these offers from China are a threat for our league.”

Coach Conte hopes Oscar, Mikel departures are the only ones

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LONDON (AP) Coach Antonio Conte hopes he has seen the last of the Chelsea exodus to the lucrative Chinese Super League.

Midfielder John Obi Mikel followed hot on the heels of Brazilian playmaker Oscar‘s big-money move to Shanghai SIPG when he joined Tianjin TEDA on Friday.

Although neither were key players in Conte’s squad this season, the Chelsea coach does not want any more of his players following them.

[ MORE: Rooney matches Man Utd goals mark ]

“I hope this offer from China finishes with Mikel and Oscar,” Conte said Friday. “I think that it’s important now to remain with this squad.”

The Italian, who took charge this season, hinted at bringing in reinforcements in the January transfer window but said the Premier League leader is “not close” to recruiting anyone yet.

He has, however, ruled out bringing in a center back with France defender Kurt Zouma available again following a long-term knee injury.

“I don’t think we need another central defender,” Conte said.

Zouma will start Sunday’s FA Cup third round match against third-tier Peterborough at Stamford Bridge, as will Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi, who has been given limited opportunities since his move from Marseille in the summer.

“I have a good opportunity in this game to see Michy from the start,” Conte said. “I think it’s important. He’s working a lot. I’m seeing that he’s improving. Sunday for him, but also for other players, could be a good opportunity to show me that he deserves to play more.”

Chelsea’s run of 13 consecutive league wins ended with a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham on Wednesday and Italian Conte wants a quick response.

“One defeat is enough for us now. In every game our mentality must be that we have to try to win every game,” he said. “FA Cup or league (it) doesn’t change. I want always the same mentality, the right mentality, a winning mentality.”

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Lindelof close to joining United and more

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Manchester United continued to improve its form on Monday with a 3-1 win over Sunderland, and now reinforcements could be in the works once January hits.

Victor Lindelof has been heavily linked to the Red Devils for some time now, and reports out of Portugal have declared that a move for the outside back to Old Trafford is essentially complete.

[ MORE: Liverpool expected to allow Leiva to leave club ]

Portuguese outlet RTP has stated that the Sweden international will be sold to United for roughly $47 million and that the 22-year-old will wear the no. 2 kit under Jose Mourinho.

RTP is also reporting that United is close to acquiring Nelson Semedo, a fellow teammate and defender with Lindelof at Benfica.

Sky Sports is reporting that Roma has turned its attention to Chelsea midfielder Charly Musonda as a potential loan candidate for when the club loses Mohamed Salah to the African Cup of Nations.

The 20-year-old is currently on loan at Real Betis, however, he has started just one match this campaign which potentially leaves the door open for the youngster to make a move to Italy.

Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel is reportedly considering various clubs as he looks to extend his career outside of Stamford Bridge.

ESPN FC is reporting that the 29-year-old has offers from Valencia, Inter Milan and Olympic Marseille, while also tabling offers from the Chinese Super League. However, ESPN FC stated that Mikel will determine his decision based on “football not money.”

UEFA Champions League roundup: PSG, Benfica take leads on Chelsea, Zenit

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Two very different UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs were staged on Tuesday in Paris and Lisbon.

[ MORE: Should MLS be worried about China’s big spending? ]

One saw exceptionally physical, fouling soccer punctuated by a stoppage time winner, while another saw a trio of interesting goals send a Premier League side home with the solace of an away goal.

Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 ChelseaRECAP

John Obi Mikel looked to be the goat, before making up for his early gaffe; The needless foul he put on Lucas allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to bounce a free kick off him and in, but Mikel found an equalizer within 7 minutes and sent the match to halftime tied at 1.

It turned out Edinson Cavani in the role of super sub would steal the show, starting and capping off a well-worked team goal to send PSG into the second leg with a 2-1 leg. Will Chelsea’s away goal end up the difference come March 9 at Stamford Bridge?

Benfica 1-0 Zenit St. PetersburgRECAP

It’s a long trip from St. Petersburg to Lisbon, and the Russian visitors won’t enjoy knowing they were 60 seconds from emerging from the first leg with a 0-0 draw. Nicolas Gaitan’s late cross was headed home by Brazil’s Jonas, and Benfica has a 1-0 advantage heading to Russia next month.

Wednesday’s 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs
Roma vs. Real Madrid
Gent vs. Wolfsburg

Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Chelsea: Cavani, Zlatan give PSG first leg edge

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  • Ibrahimovic, Cavani give PSG win
  • Courtois keeps it close
  • Mikel picks up away goal for Blues
  • Return leg March 9 at Stamford Bridge

Edinson Cavani’s terrific finish of a team goal lifted Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-1 victory over Chelsea at the Parc des Princes in Tuesday’s first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s free kick goal was PSG’s other goal, while John Obi Mikel made amends for deflecting Ibrahimovic’s shot past Courtois by scoring just before halftime.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Ibrahimovic bent an arrow just over the upper left corner in the 12th minute as a PSG free kick was the first bit of danger for either side.

Chelsea’s first great chance was spurned by PSG’s keeper, after Diego Costa‘s offside run went uncalled and his header was slapped over the goal by Kevin Trapp.

Ibrahimovic was sitting on a yellow card after 20 minutes, but that didn’t stop him from pounding a header into the ground that bounded over the bar.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

He didn’t miss on his next attempt, albeit aided by Chelsea. Mikel hacked down Lucas, then saw Ibrahimovic’s low free kick take a turn off his shin to wrong-foot Thibaut Courtois. 1-0, PSG.

PSG’s wall held up to a rare Chelsea chance when Willian‘s free kick was headed out for a corner. The Brazilian’s corner kick was then cleared away for a Chelsea throw.

Yet Mikel giveth, and he taketh away from PSG, given time to settle and finish a corner from Willian in stoppage time. 1-1 at half.

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 16:  John Mikel Obi of Chelsea (L) celebrates with Gary Cahill as he scores their first and equalising goal past goalkeeper Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea at Parc des Princes on February 16, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

[ MORE: Watch full Premier League match replays ]

Trapp made a terrific stop after a Willian counter sprung Diego Costa 1v1 with the sliding keeper, and the match remained even at 1.

Angel Di Maria tried his luck from more than 30 yards away, and Courtois had to sacrifice a corner from the high but dipping shot. Soon after, Courtois stopped an in-tight shot from Ibrahimovic for a corner.

Lucas a was a troublemaker for the makeshift Chelsea back line. Courtois parried his chance in the 61st minute.

Guus Hiddink went with a like-for-like offensive swap of Oscar for Eden Hazard, but it was PSG’s sub that paid dividends. Cavani caught an otherwise-brilliant Branislav Ivanovic unaware, and darted in to finish a great team goal he started in his own half. 2-1, 78′.

Courtois made a solid in-tight stop on Ibrahimovic in the first moments of stoppage time to keep Chelsea within a goal.