Monday 16 July 2018

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England ENG 1

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Conte will fight to keep Costa in his new Chelsea regime

Diego Costa has struggled to settle in England (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Diego Costa has struggled to settle in England (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Matt Law

Chelsea will fight to keep Diego Costa after their incoming head coach Antonio Conte held a heart-to-heart with the striker as part of a series of individual meetings with his new squad.

As part of those meetings, Conte also held "intensive" talks with captain John Terry, but the Italian is yet to inform the 35-year-old whether he will be offered a new contract past this season.

Having briefly addressed the entire squad on Tuesday, Conte spent Wednesday talking personally with most of his new players in a number of meetings, both at Chelsea's

Cobham training base and a London hotel, which stretched into the evening. The overriding message from Conte was that he will demand total commitment to the club and his team, but Chelsea will attempt to fight off interest from Atlético Madrid and Chinese Super League clubs for Costa. Costa has grown disillusioned with life in England and constant criticism over his discipline, but the 27-year-old will have to agitate for a move to force his way out of Stamford Bridge this summer.

The Spain international has never shown a lack of commitment to the team, despite being unsettled in England, which has convinced Chelsea to fight to keep him. It remains to be seen how resolute the club will be if a Chinese club offer more than £70 million or Costa requests a transfer.

Conte will make more visits to Chelsea's Cobham training ground over the coming weeks and may well talk to Costa, who is suspended for today's game against Swansea City, about his future again.

Other than Costa and Terry, Conte has now met the majority of his new squad - including Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and Thibaut Courtois, who raised doubts over his future while on international duty with Belgium.

Chelsea quoted Real Madrid £73 million when the Spanish club showed an interest in the goalkeeper last summer and it would still take an enormous bid to tempt them into selling. Real are still in the market for a goalkeeper, along with Barcelona, who need to replace Manchester City-bound Marc-André ter Stegen, but Chelsea's valuation of Courtois could be a big issue.

Should former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho rejoin Real, then he could launch a big-money move for Courtois as the Portuguese remains a huge fan of the 23-year-old.

Asmir Begovic could get the chance to show Chelsea they would not have to spend big to replace Courtois, as interim manager Guus Hiddink is considering starting the Bosnian against Swansea. Should Courtois stay at Chelsea as No 1, then it is almost certain that Begovic will look for first-team football elsewhere this summer.

Chelsea want to keep Eden Hazard and it is understood the nature of Conte's conversations with the Belgian centred predominantly on his fitness and his disappointing season. Hazard gave no indication that he wants to leave, but Matic is considering his next move after losing his starting place under Hiddink.

Conte made a good impression on the majority of Chelsea players as he stressed there will be no favourites in his group. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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