Chinese club offering $139m for Chelsea's Costa

A £30 million (S$52.2 million) annual salary is reportedly being dangled in front of Blues' in-form striker Diego.
A £30 million (S$52.2 million) annual salary is reportedly being dangled in front of Blues' in-form striker Diego.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • He is the leading scorer for the leading English Premier League football club, but that has not stopped a Chinese football club from attempting to lure Chelsea's Diego Costa away for a princely sum of £80 million (S$139 million).

The annual salary being offered is just as eye-watering - a cool £30 million. And the distraction could scupper Chelsea's hopes of winning the Premier League title.

Such is the money available at Chinese Super League clubs that Tianjin Quanjian, who signed the Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel last week, is back in the market for a striker and has been linked with the Blues' in-form striker.

The reported connection led to Spanish international Costa, who leads the Premier League scorers' chart with 14 goals, being left out of Chelsea's squad for last night's clash with Leicester City. He has been forced to train on his own for much of last week because of doubts over his fitness and commitment.

The issue came to a head in training last week when the Brazilian-born player complained of a lower back problem but it was greeted with scepticism by club physios.

The 28-year-old is believed to have instructed his agent and intermediaries to travel to China to assess potential clubs and transfer offers, either this month or in the future.

Chelsea are adamant that Costa will not be sold this month, despite the prospect of attracting a fee in excess of the £60 million they received for Brazilian midfielder Oscar's move to Shanghai SIPG.

With still two months to go before the Chinese Super League kicks off, there will be more chances for Chinese clubs to splurge and entice more top-class footballers.

However, Chinese fans remain sceptical as to whether these stars can help lift their standard of football and help the nation qualify for the World Cup Finals.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 15, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese club offering $139m for Chelsea's Costa'. Print Edition | Subscribe