Thursday 22 March 2018

Chelsea to issue Atletico with second warning over their aggressive pursuit of Diego Costa

Diego Costa is set to remain at Chelsea Photo: PA
Diego Costa is set to remain at Chelsea Photo: PA

Matt Law

Chelsea are ready to fight fire with fire over Diego Costa by issuing Atletico Madrid with a second warning over their pursuit of the striker.

Atletico are desperate to re-sign Costa and have become increasingly public in their attempts to unsettle the 27-year-old, despite Chelsea’s repeated insistence he is not for sale.

Telegraph Sport can reveal Chelsea already sent one letter to Atletico warning them about their previous comments regarding Costa and are prepared to make contact again with a more strongly-worded rebuke if the Spanish club maintain their aggressive transfer tactics.

Costa struggled to adapt to life in England and became frustrated during his second season in the Premier League, but has promised new head coach Antonio Conte that he will give him everything.

That has not stopped Atletico’s attempted courtship and Chelsea were, on Monday, forced to deny stories from Spain that Costa had put in a transfer request. Blues officials were then astonished to see quotes attributed to president Enrique Cerezo that his club are talking to the player and are “close” to re-signing him.

Cerezo later denied making the comments, but Chelsea already feel Atletico have been disrespectful in their hunt for Costa and will now keep a close watch on their next move with the intention of issuing another warning, reminding the Spaniards he is their player and to back off.

Chelsea have long been admirers of Atletico striker Antoine Griezmann, but have never spoken about the France international publically or made any attempt to contact him.

The Costa episode has soured what had once been a good relationship between the two clubs. Chelsea sent goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on loan to Atletico for three seasons before taking him back in 2014, the same summer in which Costa moved to Stamford Bridge with Filipe Luis. The left back returned to the Vicente Calderon a year later.

Conte has held more than one round of talks with Costa since being appointed by Chelsea and wants to play him in a new two-man strike force this season.

Chelsea have already signed Michy Batshuayi from Marseille, but are still in the market for another striker with Alvaro Morata Conte’s top target and Brazilian forward Gabriel Barbosa another option.

Real Madrid have turned down a bid from Chelsea for Morata, insisting they want to keep the player, but the 23-year-old is believed to be seeking assurances over his role in Zinedine Zidane’s squad with a move to Stamford Bridge still a possibility.

Asked about Costa ahead of Chelsea’s second pre-season friendly against RZ Pellets in Austria on Wednesday night, Conte said: “Diego is our player, he’s a fantastic player for me. He is a player with fundamental importance.

“For me, it’s no problem to read there is the opportunity to go to another team because Diego stays with us. He’s very happy and is working very hard.

“We are Chelsea, one of the biggest clubs in the world and for this reason I think Diego Costa must stay in the best team.”

Meanwhile, Conte confirmed that winger Juan Cuadrado, who spent last season on loan at Juventus, has joined up with his squad in Austria.

Conte, who last week confirmed he wants Cuadrado to stay at Stamford Bridge, said: “Cuadrado is Chelsea’s player. I like him. He arrived today and this afternoon he starts to train with us.”

The return of Cuadrado means Chelsea are unlikely to sign Italian winger Antonio Candreva unless Conte manages to clear space in his squad. Other than Cuadrado, Conte already has Willian, who signed a new £120,000-a-week contract, and Pedro, who is only 12 months into a four-year deal.

Candreva’s agent, Federico Pastorello, has close ties to Conte and knows Chelsea’s head coach is a fan of his client. But Pastorello is also aware that the Blues currently have good options on the right.

Juve and Inter Milan are both interested in Cuadrado, but Conte appears determined to try to keep the Colombian.

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