Antonio Conte suggests David Luiz is free to leave Chelsea in January

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has suggested out-of-favour defender David Luiz is free to leave in January, but insists the club must sign players before any exit.

The Brazilian has been widely linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge this month having played only once since October.

The 30-year-old was left out for several games, reportedly due to a bust-up with his manager, before he was later sidelined by a knee injury, and 21-year-old Andreas Christensen has since impressed after taking his place in the centre of the three-man defence.

With the summer’s World Cup in Russia on the horizon, Luiz is keen for more regular game time and he has been linked with a move to Premier League rivals Arsenal, who the Blues face on Wednesday.

Conte side-stepped questions on transfers in a press conference, and while he revealed Luiz is close to making a return, he also hinted that the Brazilian was free to leave if the Blues can find a replacement before the window shuts.

Speaking ahead of the Premier League clash against the Gunners, he said: “First of all, David improved his physical condition a lot.

“In the last couple of days he worked with us. He can be in contention for the Norwich game [in the FA Cup third-round on Saturday].

“I’m very happy to work with these players, I trust these players. I don’t see a problem.

“At the same time I understand if some players are not playing with regularity and want to play with regularity.

“Our squad is not big. For this reason I think it’s impossible to send on loan one player or to sell one player, if we don’t take another player.”

Conte says his participation on transfers is limited to making suggestions to director Marina Granovskaia, who leads on recruitment.

“My expectations can be a lot, or not,” Conte added.

“But the most important thing is my opinion. I try to give my opinion to the club and then the club has to take the best decision for the team.

“I’m only a coach. My main task is to work on the pitch with my players. If the club decide to ask me something about my team, I try to give my opinion.”

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