Tuesday 20 March 2018

Costa ordered to return to Chelsea as impasse deepens

Chelsea striker Diego Costa. Photo: PA.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa. Photo: PA.

Matt Law

Diego Costa has again been ordered to return to Chelsea with the club adamant that Atletico Madrid will not land the Awol striker for a knock-down fee.

Costa revealed that he has been fined by Chelsea for failing to return to training after being given an extra week off at the start of pre-season, following Antonio Conte's text message confirming he had no future at Stamford Bridge.

In an unsanctioned interview, Costa claimed he was prepared to spend a year in Brazil without being paid by Chelsea unless the club let him return to Atletico.

But Chelsea have reiterated to the 28-year-old that they expect him to return to England and fulfil the terms of his contract by training and doing everything he can to make himself fit and available.

Negotiations have taken place between Chelsea and Atletico over Costa's desired return to Spain, but the Premier League champions insist his contract must be adhered to until a transfer is agreed.

Chelsea reject claims that Costa was told he would have to train with the reserves if he returns to the club, although it remains highly improbable that he would play for head coach Conte again.

Conte this summer revealed that he first decided in January that Costa could leave at the end of last season, following a training-ground row over interest from China.

That was followed by a text message sent in June, which reiterated that Costa was not part of Conte's plans for this season. Costa's lawyer, Ricardo Cardoso, has threatened legal action over Chelsea's handling of the player and threatened to use "all possible legal mechanisms" to force his return to Atletico. The Madrid club have seen a bid of about £26 million (€29m) for Costa rejected by Chelsea, who are determined not to allow last season's top scorer to leave for a bargain price.

The Blues believe that with two years remaining on his contract, Costa is worth about £40m (€44m), but it is not just the size of the fee that has been a sticking point.

Under their transfer embargo, Atletico cannot register new players until January and the Spanish club would prefer not to pay Costa's full £150,000-a-week (€165,000) wages while he cannot play.

But Chelsea are not interested in a deal that would see them subsidise any part of Costa's salary until the New Year and want him off the wage bill if he leaves.

Conte has started the season short of players, with Michy Batshuayi having to start the defeat to Burnley as Chelsea's lone striker while summer signing Alvaro Morata works towards full fitness.

Chelsea's squad weaknesses were badly exposed in the defeat to Burnley and Conte faces more selection problems with Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas suspended for Sunday's game against Tottenham.

Pedro is optimistic of returning from injury to face Spurs, but Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko are still expected to be out.

Conte has been promised that Chelsea will sign at least three more players before the transfer window shuts at the end of this month with midfield currently the most pressing area that needs strengthening.

Players of interest include Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater, Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Southampton's unsettled defender Virgil van Dijk. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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