While Chelsea continues to be linked with a big-money transfer to land a striker from Spain, Antonio Conte is determined that his current leading marksman won’t be moving in the opposite direction. Diego Costa has been linked with a move back to Atletico Madrid all summer following a less than successful second season at Stamford Bridge. His new manager, though, insists that the Spain international is an integral part of his plans.
"For me, Costa is a fantastic player, one of the best strikers in the world," Conte said from Chelsea’s preseason tour of Austria. “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.”
Atletico Madrid has done plenty to stoke the rumors of a return for a player who fired the club to the Champions League final two years ago. President Enrique Cerezo even stated that talks with the player had been ongoing and that a deal was “close.”
It was those comments that, according to The Sun, led to Chelsea writing a letter of complaint to the Spanish club threatening to report it to FIFA if the alleged tapping up continues. Cerezo has since been far more circumspect when asked about the 27-year-old.
Perhaps Chelsea wouldn’t be so insistent over keeping hold of Costa if more progress had been made in its pursuit of the man who was selected ahead of Costa in the Spain squad for Euro 2016, Alvaro Morata. When Real Madrid activated a clause to re-sign the Spain striker from Juventus earlier this summer it appeared just a temporary stay before he could be sold on for a significantly higher price. Since then, however, Zinedine Zidane has decided that the 23-year-old will be part of his plans for the current season.
Still, the saga may not be quite done yet. According to Spanish sports daily Marca, Morata still wants assurances over what his precise role with Real Madrid will be. Meanwhile, it is claimed that Conte has been in regular contact with Morata, while Chelsea has tabled a 60 million euros ($66 million) offer. With Chelsea having already signed Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi this summer, Morata’s arrival would almost certainly spell the end for Costa.
As well as Batshuayi, Conte also added midfielder N’Golo Kante to his squad last week. Chelsea has also been linked with another member of Leicester City’s Premier League title winning side, but it now appears unlikely that Riyad Mahrez will be joining Kante at Stamford Bridge. Last week it was reported that the winger, who scored 17 goals Premier League goals last season, would not sign a new contract with Leicester and would seek a move away from the club this summer. Manager Claudio Ranieri, though, struck a defiant tone this week.
“Everybody here is happy and, yes, he wants to stay,” the former Chelsea manager said of the Algeria international. “No other players will go away – we will stay together. The football continues without Riyad or without Kante but Riyad will stay with us for all of the years. It’s important to maintain the group, with the spirit, with the humility – that’s important for me.”