Antonio Conte says that John Terry will be a “serious loss” to Chelsea when the centre-half finally leaves the club at the end of the season, as much for what he can contribute off the pitch to the club’s future, as what he has done on the pitch in the past.
The 36-year-old’s pending departure was announced on Monday, with Conte saying that part of the reason was that he could no longer guarantee regular football to a player who still feels he can contribute much more.
Terry has made just five appearances in the Premier League this season, although the manager praised his influence as a “great captain” on a squad that is currently four points clear at the top of the table and aiming for a double as they face Tottenham Hotspur in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
“I’m repeating I think in every press conference that John, he is for me, in my first season, he is very important because he’s helping me on the pitch, off the pitch,” Conte said.
“For us he’s a great captain. The problem is that John wants to play regularly and for this reason I think that we have to respect his decision, because I was a footballer and I know when you arrive at this point in your career, and your mind and your body told you continually, you feel you can continue but you want to play regularly, it’s right to continue. Because when you finish… we have to respect his decision.
“If you ask me is he a serious loss for next season, yes I think so. Because I’m seeing what John is doing this season and I repeat for the changing room, for this moment of Chelsea, we are building the foundation, a player like John Terry is very important for us.”
Conte refused to say whether Terry would start the semi-final, though, despite the injury doubts over Gary Cahill. The Italian hinted that he is not a direct replacement, as Cahill recovers from a bout of gastroenteritis.
“This is a semi-final and in this season I know we tried to have in every position two options, and usually the player that usually plays and another player. I think the right position for John when we play with three central defenders is in the central position where David Luiz is playing.
“I have to make the best decision for the team tomorrow, but we will try a different solution.”