Conte laughs off Costa’s claims, saying ‘it is in the past’
Chelsea insist Costa should maintain his fitness and make himself available for selection
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said: “I can tell you that everyone who was in Chelsea knows very well what happened last season with Diego.” Photograph: Action Images via Matthew Childs/Reuters
Antonio Conte has responded to Diego Costa’s claims that Chelsea have treated him “like a criminal” by saying that the striker is in the club’s past.
Costa is determined to force a path back to Atletico Madrid and believes that Chelsea are pricing him out of a move to his former club. He has defied Chelsea by refusing to return to training before a possible transfer and has spent the past week niggling the champions in a series of outspoken interviews from Brazil.
Chelsea are insistent the player, who has two years left on his contract, should maintain his fitness and make himself available for selection. Yet Conte’s stance seems at odds with the club’s.
Chelsea’s manager laughed when Costa’s comments were put to him and ruled out the prospect of ever picking him again. “It’s great,” Conte said. “I prefer to laugh. I can tell you that everyone who was in Chelsea knows very well what happened last season with Diego. It’s funny, this interview.”
Conte was pressed on whether he would select the Spain forward if he returns to London. “No,” the Italian said. “I’m not interested to continue this issue. I repeat: for me, is in the past.”
Costa has made life difficult for Chelsea since going public with claims in June that Conte told him in a text message he was not part of his plans.
Chelsea, who play Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Sunday after opening their title defence with a shambolic home defeat to Burnley last weekend, contend that the forward and his agent Jorge Mendes have known since January that he could leave this summer.
However, Costa is frustrated Chelsea continue to ask Atletico for £50 million. He said on Thursday his destination for this season was “already defined”, but on Friday he admitted he might have to change his plans if negotiations with the Spaniards continue to move slowly. Chelsea signed the 28-year-old for £32m from Atletico three years ago and he believes they should lower their valuation.
“I’ve demonstrated I care for Atletico and have interest in playing for them,” Costa told ESPN Brazil. “But if Atletico and Chelsea don’t come to an agreement and Atletico don’t make a big effort, I can’t keep on wanting to play for a club that isn’t going to make a bigger effort to try and sign me.
“I know this [big effort] will happen, but if it’s to pay the amount that Chelsea want it won’t be possible. What I know is this offer Chelsea will get is bigger than what they paid, so I’ve given them something back in all senses.
“My agent said Chelsea want something that Atletico can’t get near. When we heard Conte didn’t want me anymore, my agent went to find out if there was interest from Atletico for me coming back. Of course for the warmth and respect that I earned there, they showed interest. But they wouldn’t pay a fortune.”
Costa wants to decide his own future after helping Chelsea to win the league twice in three seasons. “Chelsea have offered me to several clubs, but I was very clear with them,” he said. “I said if I’m not part of the manager’s plans I would like to choose my destination. I’m not going to let them decide just to get more money.
“I think they should take into account everything I’ve done. It’s not my fault that I’m not at the club. If it was down to me I’d be playing. It’s already been one month. Holidays are good but it gets tiresome.”
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino is looking forward to making Wembley his home for the next nine months, even if the English national stadium seemed like something from “another galaxy” as a child.
Tottenham Hotspur, who yesterday sealed the record £42 million move for Ajax’s Colombian centre-half Davinson Sánchez, will play all their home matches at Wembley this year while construction of their new stadium is completed. Tottenham are hoping to conclude a deal for Juan Foyth after entering advanced talks with the centre-back’s club Estudiantes. Spurs were in contact with the Argentinian club last month but have now firmed up their interest and are hoping to sign the 19-year-old for around £9 million. Much has been made of whether the team can adapt to their new surroundings, but their coach is enthusiastic about the prospect. “I played in the old Wembley for Argentina in 2000 and it was a massive dream for me,” he said. “Wembley was a big one for me. When I was young it was like the moon, or another galaxy. It was in another world no? Then, one day, I had the possibility to play there and now every week I will spend time there.” Pochettino, who describes Wembley as “the most exciting place to play football”, will take charge of his first home match of the Premier League season against Chelsea tomorrow. His opponents beat Spurs 4-2 at Wembley in the FA Cup last season and the Argentine insists his side must be ready to meet the challenge of a top-level opponent, even one currently in turmoil.
While Pocchetino’s enthusiasm is no doubt genuine, it is likely he will also hope some of it rubs off on his players. With just two wins in 10 previous matches at the new Wembley, Spurs do not have a good record there and Pocchetino suggested the fact may have been preying on his team’s mind ahead of a recent friendly at the ground against Juventus, which Spurs went on to win 2-0.
“I think when we played Juventus there was a little bit of ‘oh, we are going to play at Wembley’. We didn’t talk too much, but the feeling was that this was a massive test for us”, he said. “After the game the feeling was more ‘ah, we can do well here’. We can play well, we can play respecting our philosophy and I think it was a very nice feeling. It gave us more confidence and more trust.”