Chelsea’s new manager Antonio Conte has admitted that Diego Costa may not be at Stamford Bridge at the start of next season, with speculation rife that he may well be returning to Atletico Madrid this summer.
Costa missed Saturday’s match between the Blues and Real Madrid with a back injury, having already missed out on Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Liverpool during the pre-season tournament the International Champion’s Cup on Wednesday. Speaking before the Real game the manager said, “I have to see the players in training. If I cannot see them in the training session, I cannot put them in a game…This is normal, for me. In the last few days, Diego had pain in his back. So he didn’t train, and for this reason he didn’t play”.
Speaking after the game in Michigan the Italian couldn’t confirm that Costa would definitely remain a Chelsea player for the 2016-2017 campaign. He said, “I can say that today Costa is a Chelsea player. He didn’t play in these games because of injury and if he solves the injury and I see in training that he is in good shape it can be possible to see him in the next game against Milan. But I can say only this. I speak only for today and today Costa is Chelsea’s player. Tomorrow if you ask me if Costa will remain with us, I don’t know”.
The comments contradicted what Conte said a couple of weeks ago when he seemed to suggest that Costa would be going nowhere. Speaking when Chelsea were on the Austrian leg of their pre-season tour the manager said, “For me, Costa is a fantastic player, one of the best strikers in the world. We are Chelsea and Chelsea are one of the best clubs in the world and for this reason, I think Diego Costa must stay. I see him very happy and I don’t know any other situation. Diego Costa is Chelsea’s player”.
The former Italian national manager is notoriously strict and may not have been impressed with Costa’s attitude since he took over as Chelsea’s first permanent manager since the departure of José Mourinho. The Spaniard is a fiery player, having been given several retrospective bans by the Football Association for his behaviour in previous Premier League campaigns.
Chelsea have already strengthened their attacking options with the signing of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille for £33 million. The Blues are also rumoured to be interested in signing Batshuayi’s Belgian team-mate and former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton, but Conte refused to be drawn on those links.
Speaking during his post-match press conference in the wake of the 3-2 loss to Real Madrid at the weekend Conte said, “I do not want to speak about the players of other teams. This is not respectful to the club or to their players. I prefer not to speak. The transfer market is not the most important thing. The important thing is to build a team – a team that plays in good and bad situations and concentrates and works together”.
The reference to creating a good team spirit combined with the continued links to re-signing Lukaku could be part of the reason that Conte has changed his mind about keeping Costa at the club.