Thursday 23 November 2017

Costa ultimatum as Chelsea gear up for £200m spree

Chelsea's Diego Costa
Chelsea's Diego Costa

Matt Law

Chelsea will hold talks with Diego Costa in what promises to be a frantic summer after the striker issued the club with an ultimatum over his future.

Just hours after Chelsea missed out on the Double by losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal, Costa insisted that he would not be pushed to China, and that Atletico Madrid were the only club he was interested in joining.

Costa claimed he was happy to stay at Stamford Bridge, but contradicted himself by saying he would have to leave if the club signed a new big-money striker. That is unlikely to deter Chelsea in their pursuit of Romelu Lukaku.

Costa's situation is the most delicate facing the club this summer, but nine of the first-team squad who won the Premier League title have doubts over their futures.

John Terry and Asmir Begovic, who will join Bournemouth, are definitely on their way out, while there is uncertainty over Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas, Michy Batshuayi, Nathan Ake, Kurt Zouma, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy and Ola Aina.

Chelsea are confident they will keep Real Madrid targets Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, who are expected to sign new contracts, and, most importantly, head coach Antonio Conte is ready to sign a £9.6m-a-year contract extension.

The club are keen to avoid another summer saga over Costa and will talk to the 28-year-old about what the best outcome is for all parties.

All eventualities are said to be open. There remains the possibility that he could sign a new deal, but Chelsea are aware that Atletico have recently renewed their interest in re-signing Costa if they sell Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann and their transfer ban is lifted.

Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian, who failed with a bid for Costa in January, had been confident of sealing a £76m move for the Spain international, but new rules on spending have complicated the matter.

It is seen as no coincidence that Costa's insistence that he does not want to move to China comes shortly after Atletico registered fresh interest in him.

"Now, it's important for me to take two or three days to rest and then to speak about the future, for my players, for all," said Conte when asked about whether Costa wanted to stay at Chelsea.

When it was put to Conte that he must want Costa to remain at Stamford Bridge, he added: "I don't like to... I repeat, I need two or three days' rest and then speak about the future of the club."

Talks over a new contract for Matic have become protracted and could be complicated by Chelsea's pursuit of Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.

The club must convince Fabregas, who was upset at not starting in the final against his former club, that he will play in enough big games next season.

Batshuayi, who is a target of Monaco and West Ham, is yet to be told whether he will be kept, loaned out or sold, while Ake, another target for Bournemouth, could ask to leave, even though the club want to keep him.

Zouma is likely to be made available for loan, with Andreas Christensen returning and Chelsea hoping to sign Southampton central defender Virgil van Dijk. Loftus-Cheek will be allowed to go out on loan, while Kenedy and Aina could be sold or loaned out.

As well as targeting Everton striker Lukaku and showing an interest in Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, Bakayoko and Van Dijk, Conte wants at least one new wing-back, a back-up goalkeeper and possibly a wide player as part of a £200m summer spend.

Chelsea's pursuit of new signings promises to be just as tough as the decisions they will make over existing players. Everton are demanding at least £90m for Lukaku, while Southampton claim privately they will hold out for a world-record fee for a defender for Van Dijk.

Terry revealed that he had already cleared out his locker at Chelsea's training ground ahead of the final.

"That was an emotional one, my last day clearing out the locker," said the 36-year-old, who becomes a free agent. "It makes you feel a little bit empty when you're putting everything, your possessions over the year and pictures of your kids, into a bag."

Terry, though, is sure Chelsea will push on without him, saying: "This team is a great group." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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