Costa set for Chelsea recall
Antonio Conte is ready to bring Diego Costa straight back into his Chelsea team for tomorrow's match against Hull City, but the Italian has offered no guarantees over the striker's long-term future at the club.
Costa has trained fully with the squad since Tuesday, having missed last Saturday's victory over Leicester City after becoming embroiled in a row with Conte and a fitness coach over his complaint that he was feeling pain in his back.
Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian have confirmed they made an offer for Costa, which is thought to have turned the 28-year-old's head, but now accept that Chelsea will not sell him until the end of the season.
Conte used an Italian phrase to insist he has no doubts over Costa's fitness or focus ahead of the Hull match and the Spain international could come straight back in at the expense of Willian. If he does, it will be his 100th appearance for Chelsea.
But asked whether Chelsea should offer Costa a new contract to try to secure his long-term future, Conte said: "No, I think now is better to be focused and concentrate on the present, not the future.
"Now it's important he has these four months in a very strong way and then we'll see.
"It's important now to be focused on the present and not see too far (into the future).
"Diego is a good player, a good person, and now he's only focused on Chelsea and to play with us, and continue to help us.
"He is very happy with us," Conte added. "I don't see a problem. Every week I have a chat with my players, a simple chat. The player wants to stay at Chelsea.
"I heard a lot of speculation about Diego, but the most important thing is that he has trained with us this week, he does not have any pain in his back and can play.
"He missed only one game, and now he's ready to come back with us. For sure, I'm sure about his commitment, his behaviour, his will to fight with this team and to try, together, to fight until the end to try and win the title."
Conte is expected to give the green light for Costa to go in the summer if Chelsea receive a good offer, with Alvaro Morata his preferred replacement.
The Italian is sure that, in the meantime, Costa will give everything to help Chelsea maintain their advantage at the top of the Premier League table and win the title.
"Every time Diego played for Chelsea, he always put all himself into it for this shirt, for this club," said Conte. "This is the most important thing.
"I know this and I'm pleased. For this reason, I'm sure that, if Diego starts, he'll put all himself into it for this club, the shirt and the fans, and do everything he can to win."
Asked if he was convinced that Costa's focus was solely on Chelsea, Conte replied: "Yeah, yeah. I can put my hands in the fire. In Italy, if you put your hands in the fire, it means you are certain 100pc."
Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian all played well against Leicester and Conte is insistent that, should Costa come straight back in, it will not be because he is an automatic pick when available.
"I don't like this word, 'untouchable'," said Conte. "You prove you should play a game in training sessions and you have to prove you should start.
"I prefer all my players show me every single day that they deserve to play. For me, that's important. From my career, I learnt this."
Branded a rat and booed by a section of fans last season, Costa had rebuilt his reputation with supporters before this latest bust-up.
But Conte is adamant that Costa should not be jeered tomorrow, saying: "I don't think this situation can happen. It's not right."
Meanwhile, Chelsea have received an improved bid of £10m for goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from Bournemouth which they are likely to accept.
Elsewhere, Burnley look set to break their transfer record on an Irishman for the second time in as many transfer windows.
The Turf Moor club are now clear favourites to acquire Robbie Brady from Norwich City before the end of the month, having yesterday increased their bid for the Dubliner to £13m.
Burnley, who lie 10th in the Premier League, broke their previous transfer record when they shelled out £10m to Derby County for Brady's childhood friend and fellow Ireland international Jeff Hendrick.
Jose Fonte has completed his move from Southampton to West Ham after the clubs agreed an initial transfer fee of £8m, while Stoke have paid West Brom £12m for striker Saido Berahino, who has signed a five-year contract. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Chelsea v Hull City, Live, Sky Sports, tomorrow, 4.30