Antonio Conte sees no reason why Diego Costa should not play for Chelsea again after maintaining the striker missed the Premier League victory at Leicester through injury.
Following reports this week that Costa had a disagreement with the Chelsea boss and his coaching staff amid rumours of a big-money offer from a Chinese Super League club, the 28-year-old was left out of the squad on Saturday evening.
Conte played down his top scorer’s omission before kick-off at the King Power Stadium, saying he had a back injury, and he insisted that was the truth in his post-match press conference, where he also called talk of an offer from China “speculation”.
Asked if Costa still had a future at Chelsea, Conte replied:
“This is the truth. On Tuesday Diego stopped training because he felt a pain in his back and from that moment he doesn’t train again this week. And for this reason today he wasn’t available – for the starting XI or the bench or the squad. This is the reason, this is the truth.
“I think there has been a lot of speculation about this topic. If there is a problem, and I repeat if, with the players then in my career I prefer to sort the problem in the changing room, not outside and not in press conference. But I repeat – if. I have told the truth.”
Earlier this month Costa was linked with a move to the Chinese Super League, with the accompanying astronomical wages. It was rumoured Tianjin Quanjian were prepared to bid £80 million for the Spain international.
“I don’t know anything about this. The club don’t talk to me about this so it can be only speculation,” Conte added.
The 28-year-old Costa has two and a half years left on his Chelsea deal and was due to be offered a new contract worth about £250,000 a week in the coming months. This was in recognition of his fine form this season, with his 14 goals helping Chelsea to the top of the league.
But with a £30m a year offer on the table from Costa Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian, Costa and his agent Jorge Mendes have some leverage now with Chelsea.
The Tianjin Quanjian offer is about £2 million a year less than Carlos Tevez is making at Shanghai Shenhua. Mendes has no interest in being second at anything, so Tianjin Quanjian need to increase their offer by another £2m a year, If they do, then Chelsea might lose their third player to China during this transfer window.