Wednesday 20 September 2017

Uneasy truce as Costa returns with Chelsea targeting Morata

Costa returned to full training just a day after the Chinese FA confirmed an amendment to its competition rules to limit spending on foreign players. Photo: PA
Costa returned to full training just a day after the Chinese FA confirmed an amendment to its competition rules to limit spending on foreign players. Photo: PA

Matt Law

Diego Costa returned to first-team training yesterday, with Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte having already identified Alvaro Morata as his preferred long-term successor.

Conte and Costa put last week's bust-up behind them as the striker declared himself fit enough to rejoin first-team training and attempt to win his place back.

But the truce is set to be temporary and Costa is expected to leave Chelsea at the end of the season.

Conte tried to sign Morata last summer when Costa wanted to go back to Atletico Madrid and Chelsea will now renew their attempt to get the Real Madrid man.

Tianjin Quanjin have confirmed they made an offer for Costa, which was worth £30m-a-year net but the Chinese club now accept that Chelsea will not sell their top scorer until the end of the season.

Chelsea's refusal to sell now is likely to scuttle Costa's move to Tianjin Quanjin, but there will be plenty of other Chinese interest in the striker, while Atletico could launch another bid to take him back to Spain.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

Costa returned to full training just a day after the Chinese FA confirmed an amendment to its competition rules to limit spending on foreign players.

Chinese clubs will be allowed to field only three foreign players per game when the new season starts.

He had not trained with the Chelsea first-team squad since last Tuesday when he complained of back pain, sparking a row with fitness coach Julio Tous and then Conte.

The 28-year-old trained alone on Sunday and Monday but, having been assessed by Chelsea medics yesterday morning, he was back with Conte for an afternoon session and even shared a conciliatory embrace with Tous.

Conte will spend this week assessing Costa's fitness, attitude and state of mind before deciding whether to put him back into his starting line-up against Hull, but will offer the player no guarantees after Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez and Willian all performed well against Leicester City.

Real Madrid refused to sell Morata to Chelsea last summer after exercising their buy-back clause to re-sign him from Juventus. But the 24-year-old, who Conte signed for Juve before taking over as head coach of the Italian national team, has started only six La Liga games for Real this season, scoring five goals.

Other than Morata, Chelsea remain keen on their former striker Romelu Lukaku, but Everton's £70m valuation would need to come down.

Manchester United, meanwhile, are increasingly confident of signing Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid in the summer for what could be another world-record fee. Luke Shaw is almost certain to be on his way out of Old Trafford at the same time, with Jose Mourinho frustrated at the left-back's lack of development.

Intermediaries representing Griezmann and United have been talking for several months, and the Euro 2016 top scorer is said to be extremely keen on the move. The principles of any prospective deal have already been verbally agreed, including weekly wage and prospective shirt number.

United would likely have to match Griezmann's buy-out clause, that is set at €100m. Complicating the transfer, however, is that Atletico are serving a transfer ban and are still waiting on the Court of Arbitration for Sport to decide on whether they will be able to buy and sell players this summer.

Shaw, meanwhile, seems certain to be heading for the exit door. The 21-year-old has made only 13 appearances for the club this season, with none in the league since October 29 and none in any competition since the November 30 League Cup win over West Ham United.

Chelsea and Tottenham - depending on Danny Rose's future - are earmarked as potential buyers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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