'It's great, I prefer to laugh'

Conte makes light of Costa 'criminal' suggestion ahead of Tottenham clash

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte during the press conference. Photo: Reuters

Matt McGeehan

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte has laughed off Diego Costa's suggestion that he has been treated like "a criminal" and says the striker is in "the past".

The 28-year-old Brazil-born Spain international signed for £32million from Atletico Madrid in July 2014, agreeing a five-year contract, and wishes to return to the Spanish capital.

Costa and Conte. Photo: PA

Speaking from his native Lagarto earlier this week, Costa criticised Chelsea and Conte, who responded with humour yesterday.

"It's great. I prefer to laugh," Conte said.

"I can tell you that everyone who was in Chelsea knows very well what happened last season with Diego. It's funny, this interview."

Costa yesterday pleaded with Chelsea to lower their asking price to allow him to return to Atletico.

Diego Costa. Photo: PA

Costa claims he was told he was not wanted by a text message sent by Conte during the off-season.

But the Blues insist it was decided in January, with the striker and his agent, Jorge Mendes, that Costa could leave this summer.

Costa still has two years remaining on his contract. As a consequence, he has been ordered by Chelsea to return to London, get himself match fit and make himself available for selection.


Tiemoue Bakayoko. Photo: Reuters

That stance is seemingly at odds with Conte's, but Chelsea want to monitor their player ahead of a possible transfer.

Conte was asked if he would select Costa if he was fit to play.

"No. I'm not interested to continue this issue. I repeat: for me, it is the past," Conte added.

A Chelsea spokesman added: "Antonio's not wanting to comment further on this subject and neither are the club. Our position is clear."

Asked how the situation might be resolved, the Chelsea spokesman added: "I don't think that's something we'll get into publicly. As a Chelsea player we've said he should return to Chelsea and that's where we'll leave it."

Costa has won two Premier League titles in three years at Chelsea, scoring 59 goals in 120 appearances. He has 52 Premier League goals to his name.

He says his former club are being priced out of a move by the Blues.

Asked the fee Chelsea are requesting, Costa told ESPN Brasil: "I don't know, but my agent said that Chelsea want something that Atletico can't get near.

"What I know is that this offer Chelsea will get is bigger than what they paid (for Costa in July 2014).

"Atletico is a team growing every year, a big team, but they can't pay an extraordinary amount.

"I think they (Chelsea) should take into account everything that I've done. It's not my fault that I'm not at the club. If it was down to me I'd be playing. It's already been one month. Holidays are good but it gets tiresome."

Chelsea play Tottenham at Wembley tomorrow after opening their Premier League title defence with last week's loss to Burnley.

Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas are suspended following their dismissals against the Clarets, meaning Tiemoue Bakayoko could make his debut following his summer signing from Monaco. France midfielder Bakayoko had a slight knee injury when he joined Chelsea.

Conte said: "He's not at the top of physical condition, but he could be in contention for the game because at this moment I don't have other midfielders available."

Pedro (ankle) is a major doubt, but fellow forward Eden Hazard is continuing his recovery from a broken ankle and is not available. "We must have patience with him," Conte said of Hazard.

Victor Moses is available again following his one-match suspension.