Tuesday 24 April 2018

Diego Costa has Chelsea door closed behind him as Antonio Conte rules out U-turn

Chelsea's Diego Costa has been linked with a return to Atletico Madrid
Chelsea's Diego Costa has been linked with a return to Atletico Madrid

Matt Law

Diego Costa’s Chelsea career is effectively over after Antonio Conte made it clear there will be no U-turn on the striker’s future as the Stamford Bridge club attempt to replace him with Alvaro Morata.

And Chelsea are hoping to push through the signing of Tiemoue Bakayoko, despite it emerging that the midfielder’s £35 million move from Monaco has been held up by a knee injury after he underwent surgery at the end of last season.

Head coach Conte told Costa not to return for the start of pre-season training on Monday and does not plan to take him on pre-season tour to China and Singapore next week - even if a return to Atletico Madrid is not complete.

Chelsea were unaware of claims that Costa has remained on holiday in Brazil, but they were supported by a picture of the 28-year-old on a beach that was posted by his brother Jair.

Conte told Costa he was not part of his plans by text message at the end of last season and the Italian is standing by his decision, despite Chelsea’s losing top target Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United.

The pair first fell out in January after Costa agitated for a big-money move to China and the player last week started saying his farewells to team-mates by telephone.

Chelsea remain in negotiations with Atletico over Costa, but also some distance apart in their valuations, with the Blues demanding nearly double the Spanish club’s first £26million bid.

Talks will continue this week with the aim of reaching a swift conclusion, but Conte has no desire to reintegrate Costa back into his squad if negotiations drag on.

Chelsea depart for their pre-season tour of China and Singapore next Monday, and Costa is not expected to be part of the travelling squad if he is still waiting on a move to Atletico to be concluded.

Atletico cannot register players until January because of their transfer embargo, so Costa would have to train at the La Liga club without playing in official games until that point.

Costa’s absence meant that Michy Batshuayi was the only senior striker present at the first day of pre-season training.

Batshuayi may be allowed to leave if Chelsea can now sign Morata from Real Madrid and Fernando Llorente from Swansea City.

Conte had both strikers at Juventus and is eager to take them to Stamford Bridge after missing out on Lukaku.

Real value Morata, who wants to move to the Premier League at £80m, but Chelsea are likely to start the bidding for the Spaniard at £70m.

Chelsea tried to sign Morata 12 months ago and there are those inside the club who believed the 24-year-old will be a better signing than Lukaku, despite the fact the Belgian was Conte’s top target.

Another player Chelsea are expecting to welcome is Bakayoko, who has been waiting to complete his switch to Chelsea for the past fortnight.

Bakayoko had minor surgery on his knee at the end of last season and could not complete his Chelsea medical. He is due to do so this week and, all being well, will then officially sign.

Because he has not bee able to train properly while he waits to complete his medical, Bakayoko will be behind the rest of the Chelsea squad in terms of fitness and will probably miss the start of the season.

But Chelsea believe reports from France that he could miss the first eight to 10 weeks are extremely pessimistic and do not expect Bakayoko to be that far behind.

Assuming his signing goes through, then Bakayoko is set to replace Nemanja Matic, who attended the first day of pre-season training but still hopes to leave Chelsea before the start of the new season.

Following 18 months of unproductive talks over a contract renewal, Matic had hoped to link up with Jose Mourinho again at United but that seems far less likely after Chelsea lost out to their former manager on Lukaku.

There has been interest from Matic from Italy and Spain, and the Serb.

Back-up goalkeeper Willy Caballero was the only new signing present at the first day of Chelsea training, as defender Antonio Rudiger was given extra time off after representing Germany at the Confederations Cup.


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