Antonio Conte says Mohamed Salah’s extraordinary return in front of goal this season would have been difficult to predict, and insists he was not involved in Chelsea’s decision to sell the Egypt star.
Salah failed to shine when he moved to the Blues from Basel in 2014, spending time on loan at Fiorentina and Roma, before signing for the Giallorossi in 2016.
Liverpool parted with a fee that could rise to €50 million to bring the 25-year-old to Merseyside in June.
And he has repaid that outlay by netting an extraordinary 43 goals in all competitions, firing the Reds to the Champions League final in the process.
“I think this season for Salah is a fantastic season,” Conte said ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League match at home to Liverpool on Sunday.
“For sure we are talking about a real good player. I knew him when he played in Italy. But… this type of season, it would be very difficult to predict.
“We are talking about a player with specific characteristics, technical but also very fast. This season I am seeing him [being] very clinical. Every chance [he has], he takes the opportunity.”
Conte’s predecessor Jose Mourinho, now the Manchester United manager, has recently claimed he did not sanction Salah’s departure from Stamford Bridge.
And the Italian boss is also adamant that what now appears to be a considerable miscalculation did not occur on his watch.
Asked if he had any input into the decision to sell Salah, Conte said: “No, no. I have never spoken about Salah [with the club] because the situation was very, very clear.
“No-one asked me about him. If you put also this on me, I’m in trouble… Put that on the person who has to take the responsibility,” he said with a smile.
Despite winning the Premier League title in his first campaign in charge, Conte’s future at Chelsea has been the subject of considerable scrutiny this term, amid reports the former Juventus and Italy coach was unhappy at the club’s off-season transfer activity.
The Blues are five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for 2018-19, but Conte refused to entertain enquiries about his situation.
He said: “My opinion? You are asking my opinion since the first game of the season, after the Burnley defeat. You are continuing to ask me.
“It is very strange to have the whole season the same question in every press conference. My answer is always the same. I have a contract with Chelsea, I am doing my job, I am doing my work every day. This is my answer.”