LONDON -- Antonio Conte admitted that he hopes Chelsea manage to agree contract extensions with Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard before next summer's World Cup, and warned the rest of the Premier League that neither player has yet reached the peak of their powers.
Hazard capped another dominating performance with two goals as Chelsea beat Newcastle 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, while Courtois has lived up to his reputation as one of the world's best goalkeepers since returning to the Blues from three years on loan at Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2014.
Both are the subject of significant interest from Real Madrid, and extending Courtois has become a matter of particular urgency for Chelsea after he revealed he is happy to delay talks until closer to next summer, when he will enter the final year of his current contract.
Asked if he would like to see Chelsea tie Courtois and Hazard to new deals before they depart to represent Belgium at the World Cup in Russia, Conte said: "For sure, if you ask me about these two players, I will be very happy when they can have these deals -- but I repeat, this is the responsibility of the club.
"I can give my opinion about these two players and, for me, they are two great players, especially because they have a lot of space for improvement. They are very young players and it will be great to keep them with us.
"Thibaut is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Maybe the best now. And also Eden. But I think the club knows very well the importance of these two players and I think they are very happy to play for this club. It is normal during the season to have the contact between the player -- or the agent of the player -- and the club. I hope that at the end, Thibaut will sign his contract."
Hazard has rediscovered his best form since recovering from the broken ankle that sidelined him from June until September, and Saturday's double against Newcastle took his tally to eight goals and three assists in his last 10 Chelsea appearances across all competitions.
Conte, though, insisted that Hazard is capable of scaling even greater heights.
"I don't think that Eden is at the peak of his career," he said. "I think he has a lot of improvement [to make]. He is a young player and it's important for him to work, work, work in every training session to improve himself and then to have this kind of performance."
Asked how Hazard can get there, Conte added: "You are at the top when you win the Ballon d'Or for the first time, when you win the Champions League, when you win the World Cup. At that moment you are at the top of the world, so you are a great player."
Chelsea head into Tuesday's clash with Atletico Madrid knowing they have already qualified for the Champions League knockout stage and can confirm top spot in Group C with a win, though Conte does not believe finishing first or second will hugely impact the difficulty of their round-of-16 draw.
"This game is an important game because Atletico Madrid have shown themselves to be an important team in the past," he added. "There is no risk of being eliminated from this tournament but we have to play a good game for our confidence, and because we want to finish first in our group.
"If you finish first in your group, you risk then being drawn against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus, so it doesn't change a lot in the second round if you finish first or second. But for our ambition and our confidence, we would like to win the group."