Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has admitted that he still finds it difficult to accept that Nemanja Matic left the Blues to join Manchester United last summer.

The 29-year-old was influential to Chelsea’s title-winning campaign last term, and the Italian had wished to keep the Serbian midfielder in his squad, despite the fact that the player had expressed his desire to leave Stamford Bridge for the second transfer window in a row.

Matic was ultimately deemed dispensable by the Blues’ hierarchy, and eventually joined United for £40 million.

Although Matic may be in indifferent form for new manager Jose Mourinho this season, Conte still rues the day that he left the Blues. While speaking on Friday during his press briefing, the 48-year-old said: “About this player, I can only talk really well because he played with us last season. I think he was one of the key players in winning the title. Now Matic, unfortunately, is playing for Manchester United. I wish for him the best. Not on Sunday, but in the future.”

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Following the transfer, Conte brought in Tiemoue Bakayoko as a replacement for the 29-year-old. The France international has struggled to replicate the type of performances Matic delivered last season, however, he is still only 23 years old and could get better as he gets older.

Conte: Matic issue ‘not important, not interesting’

When pressed about why Matic was allowed to join a title rival during the summer which very rarely happens in English football, Conte said: “In the past, we have already managed this topic. I don’t want to come back and speak about the past because I think it’s not important, not interesting for us.”

Matic has gone on to play 36 times in all competitions this term, establishing himself as a first-team regular in Jose Mourinho’s side, where he has contributed three assists.

Header image: “Nemanja Matić / Неманья Мати” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Aleksandr Osipov