Sunday 21 January 2018

'I repeat..Diego Costa is a Chelsea player'- Conte losing patience with questions over striker's future

Antonio Conte and Diego Costa
Antonio Conte and Diego Costa

Tom Rooney

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has made it abundantly clear that, despite incessant speculation to the contrary, troubled striker Diego Costa will not be leaving the club this summer.

Upon confirmation of Antonio Conte’s appointment at Stamford Bridge, one of the pressing talking points centred on whether or not the gesticulating Italian could bring the risible Costa to heel.

Of course, that particular task was just one of a mounting list of wrongs to be righted following the worst title defence in Premier League history.

Conte arrived in London after guiding Italy to the quarter finals of the European Champions and, to some, it was surprise that Costa was still a Chelsea player.

The Spanish striker looked set for a return to Atletico Madrid but the move never materialised and, after returning to training following a back injury, Conte plans to use him against AC Milan in Minneapolis late tonight.

The International Champions Cup clash is the Blues’ last on their American tour, having beaten Liverpool and lost to Real Madrid.

Speaking ahead of the tie, Conte was absolute in his assertion that Costa was enjoying life at the London outfit.

“Diego Costa has recovered from his injury,” he said to

 “Tomorrow I decide the formation and the starting 11 but he is available and I am very happy that I can count on him.

“I repeat that Diego Costa is a Chelsea player and for me this is the most important thing at this moment. He is very happy to stay with us.”

New Chelsea coach Antonio Conte

Chelsea have already paid Marseille £33m for promising Belgian centre forward Michy Batshuayi, and are strongly linked with want away Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been valued at a staggering £60m.

Lukaku left Chelsea for Goodison Park only two years, largely excelling in the interim, and netted a total of 25 goals for the Toffees last term.

At both Juventus and with Italy, Conte has favoured using two strikers so, perhaps, Lukaku may arrive even if Costa stays put.

At just 27, and with 32 goals in 54 appearances, writing off Costa, even when considering his discipline issues, could be reckless.

N’Golo Kante, the compact powerhouse midfielder bought from Leicester, will make his club debut against Milan.

After his exertions at Euro 2016, Kante was granted a recovery period and, after five days of training with the squad, Conte has been impressed by what he’s seen from the tenacious tackler.

“He is in a good shape. Now he is working on the tactical aspect including through the video analysis, and also on the physical aspect, and I think tomorrow he can play one half or 30 minutes and I am very happy to see him so ready to play,” Conte said.

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