Much has been made of Antonio Conte’s decision to inform Diego Costa that he was not part of his plans for the 2017/18 season and the Spanish forward’s decision to make that information public has caused quite the transfer story to explode into view.
The relationship between Costa and Conte is believed to be fractious with the pair having clashed as a result of the public leak of a story that the former Atletico goalscorer was perhaps on the cusp of a lucrative move to China in January and that he had downed tools in training in order to push it through.
It later turned out that such a move wasn’t as close as everyone initially believed and Costa was reinstated after a brief spell on the sidelines and his goals would go on to help propel the Blues to the league title.
His tally of 20 Premier League strikes was vitally important and on paper it seems bizarre that the club seem so keen on moving him on.
Initially it was thought that Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone would reignite their pursuit of Costa as a way of boosting their squad given the expected departure of Antoine Griezmann.
With the Court of Arbitration For Sport’s decision to uphold Los Colchoneros’ registration ban until January 1 2018, it quickly became apparent that a return to the Spanish capital was no longer a primary option.
After the FA Cup final the 28-year-old spoke of his wish to stay at Stamford Bridge with Atletico the only club whom he would leave for. With that option off the table, it seemed as though he would remain with talks of a contract extension even appearing in some quarters of the media.
Chelsea’s own pursuit of Romelu Lukaku has however thrown that into doubt. The Belgian is Chelsea’s number one transfer target this summer with Everton holding out for a fee that touches the £90 million mark.
It is no secret that Chelsea are a vastly wealthy football club, but in recent years they have embarked on a path of self-sufficiency with Roman Abramovich no longer throwing hundreds of millions down for transfers. Now, it is very much a case of having a set budget boosted by any potential sales.
Selling players has been a wonderful source of income at Stamford Bridge in recent years and it seems as though Costa will be sacrificed to both fund and make room for the Belgian.
This could however be a dangerous move as the Spaniard will be missed by Chelsea. His goals are one thing but whilst he is incredibly unpopular across the league, he is so effective within a team dynamic.
His physical attributes allow him to bully defenders in a way that pushes the boundaries of fair play; his holdup play is impressive due to his technical prowess, something that Lukaku still needs to work on.
Furthermore there is a real kinship between Costa and the Chelsea supporters. Behind the scenes he has tested patience, but there is a real outpouring of positive emotion for him from the stands.
He works as hard as possible for the entire time he is on the pitch in Chelsea blue, something Manchester United fans enjoyed in Carlos Tevez’s brief spell with the club.
Lukaku is a phenomenal goalscorer but make no mistake about it he will be walking into an environment of people who will still be very suspicious as to why he didn’t succeed at the club when he was previously there.
A good start and this will all be forgotten, but the pressure that will build should he fail to hit the ground running will be significant.
Where next for Costa?
There is also the small case of just where Costa can go now with a return to Madrid off the table.
It must be said that there is a chance of Simeone persuading the forward to join and simply train with the team until he can be registered in January, however 2018 is a World Cup year and Costa knows how difficult it is to break back into the Spanish setup once your place has been filled.
A short term move to China is also possible with Tianjin Quanjian retaining an interest but again his World Cup prospects would be significantly damaged in this instance.
Michy Batshuayi is also likely to leave the club with the Belgian making clear he wasn’t willing to spend another season on the bench which leaves Chelsea in a difficult spot in attack.
Shift in style likely, but Conte should be given the benefit of the doubt
Costa has led the line for three seasons and much of the team’s style is geared towards his strengths. With him no longer present there will need to be somewhat of a change in style.
Lukaku won’t drift or come short as much as the Spaniard does at present and Chelsea may have to develop a less direct style.
Now of course it must be recognised that Antonio Conte’s judgement should be trusted, he is in a position of strength at Stamford Bridge after delivering the title in his debut season but whatever happens he will miss Costa and what he brings to the team next season, especially if Lukaku doesn’t continue his Everton form once the move from Goodison Park is officially completed.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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