Friday 22 September 2017

Revealed: Diego Costa's response to text message offering advice was the final straw for Antonio Conte

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte (L) embraces Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa (R) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London on February 4, 2017. / AFP / Ian KINGTON /
Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte (L) embraces Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa (R) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London on February 4, 2017. / AFP / Ian KINGTON /

Matt Law

Antonio Conte’s decision to dump Diego Costa by text threatens to cost Chelsea millions, despite a warning from the club’s board that he will not be allowed to negotiate his own exit.

Costa revealed late on Wednesday night that he had received a message from head coach Conte informing him that his is not part of the Italian’s plans for next season, with Chelsea set to replace him with Romelu Lukaku.

The exchange between the pair took place at the start of the week and it was Costa’s reply to advice over what he should be doing during the summer that provoked Conte.

Costa responded to Conte’s message that he is not wanted by contacting board members to tell them that Chelsea will now have to sell him on his terms.

But director Marina Granovskaia, who is the closest ally of owner Roman Abramovich, informed Costa in no uncertain terms that it is Chelsea and not him who will negotiate his exit.

Chelsea’s position does not alter the fact that Conte’s message being made public weakens their position over negotiating a fee and opens up the potential for the striker to claim a loyalty payment when he goes.

It could also impact on Granovskaia’s attempts to convince Everton to lower their £100 million valuation of Lukaku, with the Goodison Park club aware of Chelsea’s need for a Costa replacement.

Atletico Madrid remain keen to re-sign Costa, despite their transfer ban that runs until January, while AC Milan have made an enquiry about taking the 28-year-old to Italy and met with his agent Jorge Mendes.

Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian had been willing to pay £76 million for Costa, but Chelsea will be forced to listen to significantly lower offers from European clubs.

Costa had accused Chelsea of trying to push him to China after the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal and insisted that he only wants to join Atletico.

He reaffirmed his desire to return to Atletico, but acknowledged that the Spanish clubs transfer ban complicates matters.

That will give AC Milan hope of convincing Costa to move to Italy and could revive interest from China, although Spanish sources claim he has not dismissed the possibility of signing for Atletico and not playing until January.

There is also the option of Costa trying to find a club to play for until the New Year before then moving to Atletico.

In August 2014, Fernando Torres joined AC Milan on a two-year loan from Chelsea, which took care of the final two years of his contract. The move was made permanent in January 2015, but, two days later, he returned to Atletico.

Costa has two years remaining on his Chelsea contract and his advisors could now claim a loyalty bonus for their client if he leaves by arguing that it is Conte and the club who have broken the terms of that agreement.

Other than revealing the fact Conte no longer wants him, Costa confirmed that his relationship with the former Juventus and Italy manager has been “bad.”

There were problems from the start, as Conte refused to pick Costa in pre-season when the striker claimed he could not complete the full training schedule because of back pain while speculation raged over a possible return to Atletico.

Conte dropped Costa in January after rowing with him over Tianjin Quanjian’s lucrative bid to sign him, with the Spain international again complaining of a back injury.

The pair also clashed over Costa requesting to be substituted in a game against Leicester City and a training ground incident in which it was feared Costa had injured Nathaniel Chalobah.

Conte and Costa struck a truce that helped Chelsea win the Premier League title and lasted until the end of the season, but the relationship was clearly strained.

Despite making a joke of it in public, Conte was unimpressed by Costa drinking beer in the Chelsea dressing-room back in December and his half-time visit to the press lounge buffet last month.

There has been a growing feeling inside Stamford Bridge that this summer would represent the best time to sell Costa and free the club of his accompanying baggage.

This is the third successive summer in which Costa has attempted to engineer a move back to Atletico, having signed from the Spanish club for £32 million in 2014. He has never fully settled in England and has regularly complained about the bad weather.

Revealing Conte’s message, Costa said: “I’m a Chelsea player, but they do not want me there. Antonio Conte has told me by message that I do not follow at Chelsea and that's it. Conte said he did not count on me for next season.

“My relationship with the coach has been bad this season. It's a shame, I've already forwarded the message to Chelsea people to decide. You have to find a team.”

On the prospect of returning to Atletico, Costa added: “I do not know, it's complicated, but people know that I love Atletico a lot and that I love to live in Madrid.

“It would be nice to go back, but it's difficult to be four or five months without playing. It's a World Cup year and there are many things to think about. I need to play, just that.”

Chelsea retain an interest in Southampton central defender Virgil van Dijk, but are reluctant to pay the £60m Liverpool had been willing to spend on him.

Telegraph.co.uk

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