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.