Saturday 19 August 2017

Atletico Madrid interested in re-signing Diego Costa in move set to complicate Chelsea's recruitment plans

Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa
Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa

Miguel Delaney

Atletico Madrid are interested in re-signing Diego Costa from Chelsea this summer, but only for a price they consider reasonable for the 28-year-old, fuelling a situation that threatens to complicate the Premier League champions’ reinforcement plans for this summer.

The Spanish international made an assertive stance after Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in Saturday’s FA Cup final, repeatedly insisting that he has no interest in going to China and that the only club he would leave Stamford Bridge for are Atletico, who he left in 2014 to come to England.

Manager Antonio Conte wants to reshape and enhance his forward line this summer, with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez among the club’s top targets, and it is understood that one plan had been to sell Costa to fund such deals.

While Tianjin Quanjin would pay £76m for the striker, Atletico are only willing to go to around £20m, having sold him for £32m as a 25-year-old three years ago.

Costa’s reluctance to go to anywhere but his old club will disrupt such plans, and likely cause a rethink.

The champions’ top scorer spoke stridently about his future on Saturday, repeating the same message to many different Spanish-language media outlets.

Pointedly, Costa even mentioned how he doesn’t want to go to the Chinese Super League, because he believes it would make it impossible for him to then make Spain’s World Cup squad next year.

“I don’t have any intention of going,” Costa said. “The truth is I am very good here and I have a contract, but if the club want to sell me they know there is only one club I would go to. People talk too much about China and all that.

“I will stay if the club and manager want me. If they want to sell to bring in another forward, there’s no problem, I will go. The whole world knows that Atletico is the only club I would go to. If the club really want to sell me and an offer comes from another team, I stay, but if it’s Atletico I go.

“I haven’t spoken with Atleti. I am very relaxed… China? No. People talk too much about that.

“There is a World Cup this year, and I want to play in it, and if I go to China that won’t be possible.”

Those close to Costa feel that all of this was a coded public message to Conte, and that the player wants to return to Atletico more avidly than he made out on Saturday.

It does represent a certain amount of brinkmanship from the forward, although Chelsea may also run the risk of keeping a potentially unhappy squad member, even if Costa insisted on stating how content he is at Stamford Bridge. It is well known he does not enjoy the London weather, however, and yearns for the Madrid lifestyle and sun.

Much of the situation also depends on the future of Atletico star Antoine Griezmann. His mooted £85m sale to Manchester United would give Diego Simeone more funds, but also further the need to enhance his attack.

At present, Simeone wants a forward to play ahead of Griezmann  - with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette on their list of targets - but Atletico will look elsewhere if Chelsea insist on more than £25m for Costa.

Conte completely shut out any questions on Costa when asked after the FA Cup final.

“Now, it’s important for me to take two or three days to rest and then to speak about the future, for my players, for all.”

Asked whether he wants Costa to stay, Conte said: “I don’t like to – I repeat I need two or three days rest and then speak about the future of the club.”

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