Antonio Conte has shown his tough side — claiming happiness is OVERRATED.
Chelsea’s boss is a self-confessed trophy junkie and prefers to treat players mean and keep ’em keen instead of massaging their egos.
Winning is ALL that counts to the demanding Italian. And he does not give a hoot whether Spanish World Cup hero Cesc Fabregas is getting restless about dropping down the Blues’ pecking order.
Conte said: “It’s very difficult to keep 20 players happy — above all because I don’t want to.
“I want players ready to fight and try to put themselves in the team, to try to win together.
“If you are happy or unhappy, I don’t care. I would like to correct this concept that I must keep the players happy — we must win.
“If you are unhappy this season, when you are fighting for the title or to win the FA Cup, I don’t like it when I hear these questions. You speak about, ‘Happy’. I speak about winning and working hard.
“Players are not always happy to work very hard. My target is to put in the mind of my players a winning mentality — and a winning mentality doesn’t have to keep the players happy.”
Victory at home to Middlesbrough on Monday will put the Blues one step closer to clinching the title in Conte’s first season at the helm.
And he insists Fabregas still has a big part to play, even though he may not always be a first pick.
Conte added: “Cesc is playing well this season, his level is high.
“He’s showing great commitment and also great workrate.
“He’s a top player. If he starts the game, or if he comes on during the game, he’s always decisive for us.”
For taskmaster Conte, laughter and relaxation will only return to Stamford Bridge if the Double is in the bag after the FA Cup final against Arsenal on May 27.
And Conte denied that striker Diego Costa has already agreed a deal to leave at the end of the season for Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian.
The contract on the table is believed to be worth around £650,000 a week, which would make him the highest-paid player in the world.
But, whatever happens in the summer, Costa will not be allowed to take his foot off the gas while still on Conte’s payroll.
The former Juventus and Italy boss added: “It’s important for every single player and person who works for Chelsea to be focused on the present — because now is more important than the future.
“We have to be focused and concentrated, to prepare these five games between now and the end of the season.
“I’m not worried about this. I see my players every day and I see the right concentration and focus.
“It’s normal at this part of the season to cope with speculation. A lot of times it’s not true. But at this part of the season, it’s normal.
“We need to be focused to do our jobs. The other situations are not important for anybody now.”