Chelsea tell Diego Costa to return to London and prove fitness
Striker told the four conditions through which he can make peace with the club
Chelsea want Diego Costa to end his exile, return to London and prove his fitness. Photograph: PA
The Premier League champions have been forced to respond after Costa gave an interview from his home in Brazil where he claimed that Chelsea had treated him “like a criminal” over his desire to leave the club this summer.
It is understood Chelsea have made four demands of the player if he is to restore relations that have been badly soured even before this weekend’s interview. The first is straightforward, that he should return to the club. The second is that he should report for training, the third that he get match fit and the fourth, and most surprising, that he put himself into contention for first-team selection.
The 28-year-old has been in dispute with Chelsea’s coach, Antonio Conte, since the turn of the year when the Brazilian-born Spain international was upbraided for a row with the fitness coach Julio Tous. After a disappointing second half to last season, Conte told the player he was surplus to requirements by text message, the contents of which Costa then made public.
Costa is believed to have been absent without leave from Chelsea since the club flew to China for a pre-season tour in the middle of July. The club have refused to discuss the nature of any disciplinary proceedings against the player, but Costa claimed in his interview with the Daily Mail that he has had his wages docked since that time.
The ensuing stand-off led to Chelsea’s most prized forward watching his club’s opening defeat by Burnley on his parent’s TV in the Brazilian city of Lagarto. Chelsea’s intervention in the dispute has at least set out the club’s stall but it looks unlikely to defuse the situation, at least in the short term.
Costa now knows the conditions through which he can make peace with the club. But while there are precedents for such disputes ending with the player returning to the field, as Carlos Tevez did for Manchester City after absconding to Argentina in 2010, such an outcome would seem unlikely.
Perhaps the best Costa can hope for is to engender some goodwill, helping him work towards his preferred resolution: a return to his former club Atlético Madrid. Atlético, however, have yet to meet Chelsea’s valuation for the player. They remain an interested party watching on as a struggle for power between player and employee continues.
Costa signed for Chelsea from Atlético in the summer of 2014 for £32m. He won the league with the club in his first season, scoring 21 goals in the process. He managed only 16 goals the following season (and 11 yellow cards) as Chelsea suffered a remarkable collapse.
The appointment of Conte appeared to galvanise the forward once again with Costa scoring 15 goals before Christmas. But the rubbing up of two combustible personalities has resulted in a conflagration that those at Stamford Bridge are struggling to put out.